CFTR function is impaired in a subset of patients with pancreatitis carrying rare CFTR variants

Dora Angyal, Karina Kleinfelder, Fabiana Ciciriello, Tessa A. Groeneweg, Giulia De Marchi, Nicolò de Pretis, Laura Bernardoni, Luca Rodella, Francesco Tomba, Paola De Angelis, Cecilia Surace, Emily Pintani, Federico Alghisi, Hugo R. de Jonge, Paola Melotti, Claudio Sorio, Vincenzina Lucidi, Marcel J.C. Bijvelds*, Luca Frulloni

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Many affected by pancreatitis harbor rare variants of the cystic fibrosis (CF) gene, CFTR, which encodes an epithelial chloride/bicarbonate channel. We investigated CFTR function and the effect of CFTR modulator drugs in pancreatitis patients carrying CFTR variants. 


Next-generation sequencing was performed to identify CFTR variants. Sweat tests and nasal potential difference (NPD) assays were performed to assess CFTR function in vivo. Intestinal current measurement (ICM) was performed on rectal biopsies. Patient-derived intestinal epithelial monolayers were used to evaluate chloride and bicarbonate transport and the effects of a CFTR modulator combination: elexacaftor, tezacaftor and ivacaftor (ETI). 


Of 32 pancreatitis patients carrying CFTR variants, three had CF-causing mutations on both alleles and yielded CF-typical sweat test, NPD and ICM results. Fourteen subjects showed a more modest elevation in sweat chloride levels, including three that were provisionally diagnosed with CF. ICM indicated impaired CFTR function in nine out of 17 non-CF subjects tested. This group of nine included five carrying a wild type CFTR allele. In epithelial monolayers, a reduction in CFTR-dependent chloride transport was found in six out of 14 subjects tested, whereas bicarbonate secretion was reduced in only one individual. In epithelial monolayers of four of these six subjects, ETI improved CFTR function. 


CFTR function is impaired in a subset of pancreatitis patients carrying CFTR variants. Mutations outside the CFTR locus may contribute to the anion transport defect. Bioassays on patient-derived intestinal tissue and organoids can be used to detect such defects and to assess the effect of CFTR modulators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-403
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

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