Separate oligosaccharide determinants mediate interactions of the low-molecular-weight salivary mucin with neutrophils and bacteria

Biochemistry. 1999 May 25;38(21):6817-25. doi: 10.1021/bi990145m.


The low-molecular-weight human salivary mucin (MG2) coats oral surfaces, where it is in a prime location for governing cell adhesion. Since oligosaccharides form many of the interactive facets on mucin molecules, we examined MG2 glycosylation as it relates to the molecule's adhesive functions. Our previous study of MG2 oligosaccharide structures showed that the termini predominantly carry T, sialyl-T, Lewisx (Lex), sialyl Lex (sLex), lactosamine, and sialyl lactosamine determinants [Prakobphol, A., et al. (1998) Biochemistry 37, 4916-4927]. In addition, we showed that sLex determinants confer L-selectin ligand activity to this molecule. Here we studied adhesive interactions between MG2 and cells that traffic in the oral cavity: neutrophils and bacteria. Under flow conditions, neutrophils tethered to MG2-coated surfaces at forces between 1.25 and 2 dyn/cm2, i.e., comparable to the shear stress generated at the tooth surface by salivary flow ( approximately 0.8 dyn/cm2). MG2 was also found in association with neutrophils isolated from the oral cavity, evidence that the cells interact with this mucin in vivo. Since MG2 serves as an adhesion receptor for bacteria, the MG2 saccharides that serve this function were also identified. Seven of 18 oral bacteria strains that were tested adhered to MG2. Importantly, six of these seven strains adhered via T antigen, sialyl-T antigen, and/or lactosamine sequences. No adherence to Lex and sLex epitopes was detected in all the strains that were tested. Together, these results suggest that distinct subsets of MG2 saccharides function as ligands for neutrophil L-selectin and receptors for bacterial adhesion, a finding with interesting implications for both oral health and mucin function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Adhesion* / drug effects
  • Cell Communication
  • Cell Movement
  • Humans
  • Molecular Weight
  • Mouth / chemistry
  • Mouth / cytology
  • Mouth / microbiology
  • Mucins / blood
  • Mucins / metabolism*
  • Mucins / physiology
  • Neutrophils / drug effects
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Neutrophils / physiology*
  • Oligosaccharides / blood
  • Oligosaccharides / metabolism
  • Oligosaccharides / pharmacology*
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Saliva / microbiology
  • Salivary Proteins and Peptides / blood
  • Salivary Proteins and Peptides / metabolism*
  • Salivary Proteins and Peptides / physiology


  • MUC7 protein, human
  • Mucins
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Salivary Proteins and Peptides