Diabetes is a common complication of cystic fibrosis (CF) that affects approximately 20% of adolescents and 40% to 50% of adults with CF. The age-at-onset of CF-related diabetes (marked by clinical diagnosis and treatment initiation) is an important measure of the disease process. DNA variants associated with age-at-onset of CFRD reside in and near SLC26A9. Deep sequencing of the SLC26A9 gene in 762 individuals with CF revealed that two common DNA haplotypes formed by the risk variants account for the association with diabetes (high risk, P-value: 4.34E-3; low risk, P-value: 1.14E-3). Single-cell RNA (scRNA) sequencing indicated that SLC26A9 is predominantly expressed in pancreatic ductal cells, and frequently co-expressed with CFTR along with transcription factors that have binding sites 5′ of SLC26A9. These findings replicated upon re-analysis of scRNA data from 4 independent studies. DNA fragments derived from the 5′ region of SLC26A9 bearing variants from the low risk haplotype generated 12% to 20% higher levels of expression in PANC-1 and CFPAC-1 cells compared to the high risk haplotype (P-values: 2.00E-3 to 5.15E-9). Taken together, our findings indicate that an increase in SLC26A9 expression in ductal cells of the pancreas delays the age-at-onset of diabetes, thereby suggesting a CFTR-agnostic treatment for a major complication of CF.
Anh-Thu N. Lam, Melis A. Aksit, Briana Vecchio-Pagan, Celeste A. Shelton, Derek L. Osorio, Arianna F. Anzmann, Loyal A. Goff, David C. Whitcomb, Scott M. Blackman, Garry R. Cutting