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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The "Goldilocks Effect" in Cystic Fibrosis: identification of a lung phenotype in the cftr knockout and heterozygous mouse

J Craig Cohen1*, Lennart KA Lundblad24, Jason HT Bates2, Michael Levitzky1 and Janet E Larson3

Author Affiliations

1 Departments of Medicine and Physiology, Louisiana State University, School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA, 70112 USA

2 The University of Vermont, Vermont Lung Center, Burlington, VT 05405-0075, USA

3 Ochsner Children's Research Institute, Ochsner Clinic Foundation, New Orleans, LA 70121, USA

4 Department of Clinical Physiology, Malmö University Hospital, Lund University, Malmö S-205 02 Sweden

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BMC Genetics 2004, 5:21  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-5-21

Published: 27 July 2004



Cystic Fibrosis is a pleiotropic disease in humans with primary morbidity and mortality associated with a lung disease phenotype. However, knockout in the mouse of cftr, the gene whose mutant alleles are responsible for cystic fibrosis, has previously failed to produce a readily, quantifiable lung phenotype.


Using measurements of pulmonary mechanics, a definitive lung phenotype was demonstrated in the cftr-/- mouse. Lungs showed decreased compliance and increased airway resistance in young animals as compared to cftr+/+ littermates. These changes were noted in animals less than 60 days old, prior to any long term inflammatory effects that might occur, and are consistent with structural differences in the cftr-/- lungs. Surprisingly, the cftr+/- animals exhibited a lung phenotype distinct from either the homozygous normal or knockout genotypes. The heterozygous mice showed increased lung compliance and decreased airway resistance when compared to either homozygous phenotype, suggesting a heterozygous advantage that might explain the high frequency of this mutation in certain populations.


In the mouse the gene dosage of cftr results in distinct differences in pulmonary mechanics of the adult. Distinct phenotypes were demonstrated in each genotype, cftr-/-, cftr +/-, and cftr+/+. These results are consistent with a developmental role for CFTR in the lung.