Corticosteroid-modulated Epithelial Na+ and HCO3- Transport
Research efforts are focused on understanding the physiological regulation of epithelial ion transport. Transepithelial movement of ions provides for electrolyte and fluid homeostasis and, in the case of milk, is necessary for production. Dysfunction of epithelial transport mechanisms, especially the anion channel CFTR, is associated with pancreatic, renal, intestinal, reproductive, and pulmonary disorders. In the laboratory, we strive to achieve a better understanding of epithelial physiology and to develop interventions that prevent or overcome such pathological conditions.
Common mechanisms to accomplish ion transport are employed by a variety of epithelia. However, the cellular and subcellular location along with regulatory apparatus provides for unique combinations of mechanisms to support specific needs at each locale. Furthermore, a particular epithelium can modify its function depending upon the stage of tissue development or the endocrine state of the individual. In the laboratory, we are studying reproductive, renal, intestinal and mammary epithelia to understand their unique transport capabilities. These observations are particularly instructive for reproductive and mammary epithelia since relatively little is known regarding the mechanisms they employ.
We have recently developed an in vitro system to study ion transport by epithelia lining the male reproductive tract. This system allows us to identify mechanisms of ion transport in this tissue along with the hormones and neurotransmitters that modulate such activity. This line of investigation is particularly important as we try to understand the causes of congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens (CBAVD), a form of infertility that commonly affects cystic fibrosis patients. CBAVD has recently gained recognition as a 'mild' form of cystic fibrosis.