Traditional pulmonary therapies for cystic fibrosis (CF) target the downstream effects of CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) dysfunction (the cause of CF). Use of one such therapy, β-adrenergic bronchodilators (such as albuterol), is nearly universal for airway clearance. Conversely, novel modulator therapies restore function to select mutant CFTR proteins, offering a disease-modifying treatment. Recent trials of modulators targeting F508del-CFTR, the most common CFTR mutation, suggest that chronic β-agonist use may undermine clinical modulator benefits. We therefore sought to understand the impact of chronic or excess β-agonist exposure on CFTR activation in human airway epithelium. The present studies demonstrate a greater than 60% reduction in both wild-type and modulator-corrected F508del-CFTR activation following chronic exposure to short- and long-acting β-agonists. This reduction was due to reduced cellular generation of cAMP downstream of the β-2 adrenergic receptor–G protein complex. Our results point towards a posttranscriptional reduction in adenylyl cyclase function as the mechanism of impaired CFTR activation produced by prolonged β-agonist exposure. β-Agonist–induced CFTR dysfunction was sufficient to abrogate VX809/VX770 modulation of F508del-CFTR in vitro. Understanding the clinical relevance of our observations is critical for CF patients using these drugs, and for investigators to inform future CFTR modulator drug trials.


John J. Brewington, Jessica Backstrom, Amanda Feldman, Elizabeth L. Kramer, Jessica D. Moncivaiz, Alicia J. Ostmann, Xiaoting Zhu, L. Jason Lu, John P. Clancy


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