Role of anion exchangers in Cl- and HCO3- secretion by the human airway epithelial cell line Calu-3

Dusik Kim, Juyeon Kim, Beáta Burghardt, Len Best, Martin C. Steward

Research output: Article

8 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the importance of airway surface liquid pH in the lung's defenses against infection, the mechanism of airway HCO3- secretion remains unclear. Our aim was to assess the contribution of apical and basolateral Cl-/HCO3- exchangers to Cl- and HCO3- transport in the Calu-3 cell line, derived from human airway submucosal glands. Changes in intracellular pH (pHi) were measured following substitution of Cl- with gluconate. Apical Cl- substitution led to an alkalinization in forskolin-stimulated cells, indicative of Cl-/HCO3- exchange. This was unaffected by the anion exchange inhibitor DIDS but inhibited by the CFTR blocker CFTRinh-172, suggesting that the HCO3- influx might occur via CFTR, rather than a solute carrier family 26 (SLC26) exchanger, as recently proposed. The anion selectivity of the recovery process more closely resembled that of CFTR than an SLC26 exchanger, and quantitative RT-PCR showed only low levels of SLC26 exchanger transcripts relative to CFTR and anion exchanger 2 (AE2). For pHi to rise to observed values (~7.8) through HCO3- entry via CFTR, the apical membrane potential must reverse to at least +20 mV following Cl- substitution; this was confirmed by perforated-patch recordings. Substitution of basolateral Cl- evoked a DIDS-sensitive alkalinization, attributed to Cl-/HCO3- exchange via AE2. This appeared to be abolished in forskolin-stimulated cells but was unmasked by blocking apical efflux of HCO3- via CFTR. We conclude that Calu-3 cells secrete HCO3- predominantly via CFTR, and, contrary to previous reports, the basolateral anion exchanger AE2 remains active during stimulation, providing an important pathway for basolateral Cl- uptake.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)C208-C219
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - júl. 15 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology

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