Mucous cell hyperplasia and airway smooth muscle (ASM) hyperresponsiveness are hallmark features of inflammatory airway diseases, including asthma. Here, we show that the recently identified calcium-activated chloride channel (CaCC) TMEM16A is expressed in the adult airway surface epithelium and ASM. The epithelial expression is increased in asthmatics, particularly in secretory cells. Based on this and the proposed functions of CaCC, we hypothesized that TMEM16A inhibitors would negatively regulate both epithelial mucin secretion and ASM contraction. We used a high-throughput screen to identify small-molecule blockers of TMEM16A-CaCC channels. We show that inhibition of TMEM16A-CaCC significantly impairs mucus secretion in primary human airway surface epithelial cells. Furthermore, inhibition of TMEM16A-CaCC significantly reduces mouse and human ASM contraction in response to cholinergic agonists. TMEM16A-CaCC blockers, including those identified here, may positively impact multiple causes of asthma symptoms.
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