Recently, we cloned and characterized a full-length cDNA of the hamster Muc1 gene, the expression of which appears to be associated with secretory cell differentiation (Park HR, Hyun SW, and Kim KC. Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol 15: 237-244, 1996). The role of Muc1 mucins in the airway, however, is unknown. In this study, we investigated whether cell surface mucins are adhesion sites for Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells not normally expressing Muc1 mucin were stably transfected with the hamster Muc1 cDNA, and binding to P. aeruginosa was examined. Our results showed that 1) stably transfected CHO cells expressed both Muc1 mRNA and Muc1 mucins based on Northern and Western blot analyses, 2) Muc1 mucins present on the cell surface were degraded by neutrophil elastase, and 3) expression of Muc1 mucins on the cell surface resulted in a significant increase in adhesion of P. aeruginosa that was completely abolished by either proteolytic cleavage with neutrophil elastase or deletion of the extracellular domain by mutation. We conclude that Muc1 mucins expressed on the surface of CHO cells serve as adhesion sites for P. aeruginosa, suggesting a possible role for these glycoproteins in the early stage of airway infection and providing a model system for studying epithelial cell responses to bacterial adhesion that leads to airway inflammation in general and cystic fibrosis in particular.