Original Article| Volume 22, ISSUE 3, P515-524, May 2023

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The multi-faceted nature of 15 CFTR exonic variations: Impact on their functional classification and perspectives for therapy

Published:December 23, 2022DOI:


      • Exonic variants may have various molecular mechanisms of pathogenicity.
      • The impact on splicing of exonic sequence variations should be systemically assessed.
      • Splicing default of exonic variants may hamper the efficiency of targeted pharmacotherapy.
      • Functional in vitro experiments are key tools to classify CFTR rare variants in order to offer personalized therapies.



      The majority of variants of unknown clinical significance (VUCS) in the CFTR gene are missense variants. While change on the CFTR protein structure or function is often suspected, impact on splicing may be neglected. Such undetected splicing default of variants may complicate the interpretation of genetic analyses and the use of an appropriate pharmacotherapy.


      We selected 15 variants suspected to impact CFTR splicing after in silico predictions on 319 missense variants (214 VUCS), reported in the CFTR-France database. Six specialized laboratories assessed the impact of nucleotide substitutions on splicing (minigenes), mRNA expression levels (quantitative PCR), synthesis and maturation (western blot), cellular localization (immunofluorescence) and channel function (patch clamp) of the CFTR protein. We also studied maturation and function of the truncated protein, consecutive to in-frame aberrant splicing, on additional plasmid constructs.


      Six of the 15 variants had a major impact on CFTR splicing by in-frame (n = 3) or out-of-frame (n = 3) exon skipping. We reclassified variants into: splicing variants; variants causing a splicing defect and the impairment of CFTR folding and/or function related to the amino acid substitution; deleterious missense variants that impair CFTR folding and/or function; and variants with no consequence on the different processes tested.


      The 15 variants have been reclassified by our comprehensive approach of in vitro experiments that should be used to properly interpret very rare exonic variants of the CFTR gene. Targeted therapies may thus be adapted to the molecular defects regarding the results of laboratory experiments.

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