The EGF receptor (EGFR)/a disintegrin and metalloproteinase 17 (ADAM17) signaling pathway mediates the shedding of growth factors and secretion of cytokines and is involved in chronic inflammation and tissue remodeling. Since these are hallmarks of cystic fibrosis (CF) lung disease, we hypothesized that CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) deficiency enhances EGFR/ADAM17 activity in human bronchial epithelial cells. In CF bronchial epithelial CFBE41o- cells lacking functional CFTR (iCFTR-) cultured at air-liquid interface (ALI) we found enhanced ADAM17-mediated shedding of the EGFR ligand amphiregulin (AREG) compared with genetically identical cells with induced CFTR expression (iCFTR+). Expression of the inactive G551D-CFTR did not have this effect, suggesting that active CFTR reduces EGFR/ADAM17 activity. This was confirmed in CF compared with normal differentiated primary human bronchial epithelial cells (HBEC-ALI). ADAM17-mediated AREG shedding was tightly regulated by the EGFR/MAPK pathway. Compared with iCFTR+ cells, iCFTR- cells displayed enhanced apical presentation and phosphorylation of EGFR, in accordance with enhanced EGFR/ ADAM17 activity in CFTR-deficient cells. The nonpermeant natural antioxidant glutathione (GSH) strongly inhibited AREG release in iCFTR and in primary HBEC-ALI, suggesting that ADAM17 activity is directly controlled by extracellular redox potentials in differentiated airway epithelium. Furthermore, the fluorescent redox probe glutaredoxin 1-redox-sensitive green fluorescent protein-glycosylphosphatidylinositol (Grx1-roGFP-GPI) indicated more oxidized conditions in the extracellular space of iCFTR- cells, consistent with the role of CFTR in GSH transport. Our data suggest that in CFTR-deficient airway epithelial cells a more oxidized state of the extracellular membrane, likely caused by defective GSH secretion, leads to enhanced activity of the EGFR/ADAM17 signaling axis. In CF lungs this could contribute to tissue remodeling and hyperinflammation.

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American Journal of Physiology: Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Biophysical Genomics, Department Cell Biology & Genetics

Stolarczyk, M., Veit, G. (Guido), Schnúr, A. (Andrea), Veltman, M., Lukacs, G., & Scholte, B. (2018). Extracellular oxidation in cystic fibrosis airway epithelium causes enhanced EGFR/ADAM17 activity. American Journal of Physiology: Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, 314(4), L555–L568. doi:10.1152/ajplung.00458.2017