Over 2,000 mutations have been reported in the gene, many of which cause disease but are rare and have no effective treatment. Thus, there is an unmet need for new, mutation-agnostic, therapies for cystic fibrosis (CF). Phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitors are one such class of therapeutics that have been shown to elevate intracellular cAMP levels and stimulate CFTR-dependent anion secretion in human airway epithelia, however the number of people with CF that could be helped by PDE inhibitors remains to be determined. Here we used Fisher Rat Thyroid (FRT) cells stably transduced with rare human CFTR mutants and studied their responsiveness to the dual phosphodiesterase 3/4 inhibitor RPL554 (Verona Pharma). Through its inhibitory effect on PDE4D, we find that RPL554 can elevate intracellular cAMP leading to a potentiation of forskolin-stimulated current mediated by R334W, T338I, G551D and S549R mutants of CFTR when used alone or in combination with CFTR modulators. We also were able to reproduce these effects of RPL554 on G551D CFTR when it was expressed in primary human bronchial epithelial cells, indicating that RPL554 would have stimulatory effects on rare CFTR mutants in human airways and validating FRT cells as a model for PDE inhibitor studies. Furthermore, we provide biochemical evidence that VX-809 causes surprisingly robust correction of several class III and IV CFTR mutants. Together, our findings further support the therapeutic potential of RPL554 for CF patients with class III/IV mutations and emphasize the potential of PDEs as potential drug targets that could benefit CF patients.
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