TMEM16A is a Ca activated Cl channel with important functions in airways, intestine, and other epithelial organs. Activation of TMEM16A is proposed as a therapy in cystic fibrosis (CF) to reinstall airway Cl secretion and to enhance airway surface liquid (ASL). This CFTR-agnostic approach is thought to improve mucociliary clearance and lung function in CF. This could indeed improve ASL, however, mucus release and airway contraction may also be induced by activators of TMEM16A, particularly in inflamed airways of patients with asthma, COPD, or CF. Currently, both activators and inhibitors of TMEM16A are developed and examined in different types of tissues. Here we compare activation and inhibition of endogenous and overexpressed TMEM16A and analyze potential off-target effects. The three well-known blockers benzbromarone, niclosamide, and Ani9 inhibited both TMEM16A and ATP-induced Ca increase by variable degrees, depending on the cell type. Niclosamide, while blocking Ca activated TMEM16A, also induced a subtle but significant Ca store release and inhibited store-operated Ca influx. Niclosamide, benzbromarone and Ani9 also affected TMEM16F whole cell currents, indicating limited specificity for these inhibitors. The compounds Eact, cinnamaldehyde, and melittin, as well as the phosphatidylinositol diC8-PIP are the reported activators of TMEM16A. However, the compounds were unable to activate endogenous TMEM16A in HT colonic epithelial cells. In contrast, TMEM16A overexpressed in HEK293 cells was potently stimulated by these activators. We speculate that overexpressed TMEM16A might have a better accessibility to intracellular Ca, which causes spontaneous activity even at basal intracellular Ca concentrations. Small molecules may therefore potentiate pre-stimulated TMEM16A currents, but may otherwise fail to activate silent endogenous TMEM16A.

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PubMed