Highly viscous mucus and its impaired clearance characterize the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). Pulmonary secretions of patients with CF display increased concentrations of high molecular weight components such as DNA and actin. Recombinant human deoxyribonuclease I (rhDNase) delivered by inhalation cleaves DNA filaments contained in respiratory secretions and thins them. However, rapid clearance of rhDNase from the lungs implies a daily administration and thereby a high therapy burden and a reduced patient compliance. A PEGylated version of rhDNase could sustain the presence of the protein within the lungs and reduce its administration frequency. Here, we evaluated the enzymatic activity of rhDNase conjugated to a two-arm 40 kDa polyethylene glycol (PEG40) in CF sputa. Rheology data indicated that both rhDNase and PEG40-rhDNase presented similar mucolytic activity in CF sputa, independently of the purulence of the sputum samples as well as of their DNA, actin and ions contents. The macroscopic appearance of the samples correlated with the DNA content of the sputa: the more purulent the sample, the higher the DNA concentration. Finally, quantification of the enzymes in CF sputa following rheology measurement suggests that PEGylation largely increases the stability of rhDNase in CF respiratory secretions, since 24-fold more PEG40-rhDNase than rhDNase was recovered from the samples. The present results are considered positive and provide support to the continuation of the research on a long acting version of rhDNase to treat CF lung disease.

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