Mucin MUC1 is seen in cell surface protrusions together with ezrin in immunoelectron tomography and is concentrated at tips of filopodial protrusions in MCF-7 breast carcinoma cells

J Histochem Cytochem. 2001 Jan;49(1):67-77. doi: 10.1177/002215540104900107.


MUC1, a transmembrane member of the mucin family, is believed to have anti-adhesive properties because of its highly sialylated, extended, and rigid rod-like conformation. The ERM proteins (ezrin, radixin, and moesin) function as membrane-cytoskeletal linkers. MUC1 and ezrin are enriched in microvilli in MCF-7az breast carcinoma cells. Similar localization was also found in peripheral membrane areas and in filopodium-like protrusions. Whereas ezrin was consistently detected in the cell-cell contact region, MUC1 was less frequently found there. MUC1 was distinctly expressed in long filopodial protrusions and was highly concentrated at their tips, which also contained ezrin, whereas F-actin was found along the stalk. This localization of MUC1 suggests a role for MUC1 in transient cell structures of migrating cells and transient cell adhesion. No direct association has yet been found between MUC1 and ezrin. However, both MUC1 and ezrin had a similar overall distribution pattern in microvilli and filopodium-like protrusions in immunoelectron tomography. In addition, MUC1 and ezrin showed spatial association, because several 10-nm gold particles used to decorate ezrin were seen in the vicinity close to the clusters of 5-nm gold particles decorating MUC1. Therefore, MUC1 appears to be associated with ezrin, but the nature of this association requires further study.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Microvilli / metabolism
  • Mucin-1 / metabolism*
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism*
  • Pseudopodia / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Mucin-1
  • Phosphoproteins
  • ezrin