Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic lethal disease, originated from the defective function of the CFTR protein, a chloride and bicarbonate permeable transmembrane channel. CF mutations affect CFTR protein through a variety of molecular mechanisms which result in different functional defects. Current therapeutic approaches are targeted to specific groups of patients that share a common functional defect. We seek to develop an innovative therapeutic approach for the treatment of CF using anionophores, small molecules that facilitate the transmembrane transport of anions. We have characterized the anion transport mechanism of a synthetic molecule based on the structure of prodigiosine, a red pigment produced by bacteria. Anionophore-driven chloride efflux from large unilamellar vesicles is consistent with activity of an uniporter carrier that facilitates the transport of anions through lipid membranes down the electrochemical gradient. There are no evidences of transport coupling with protons. The selectivity sequence of the prodigiosin inspired EH160 ionophore is formate > acetate > nitrate > chloride > bicarbonate. Sulfate, phosphate, aspartate, isothionate, and gluconate are not significantly transported by these anionophores. Protonation at acidic pH is important for the transport capacity of the anionophore. This prodigiosin derived ionophore induces anion transport in living cells. Its low toxicity and capacity to transport chloride and bicarbonate, when applied at low concentration, constitute a promising starting point for the development of drug candidates for CF therapy.
This work has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 667079 and Consejería de Educación de la Junta de Castilla y León (Project BU092U16).