Mucinous bronchioloalveolar carcinomas display a specific pattern of mucin gene expression among primary lung adenocarcinomas

Hum Pathol. 2001 Mar;32(3):274-81. doi: 10.1053/hupa.2001.22752.


Lung adenocarcinomas are heterogeneous clinically and histologically. Expression of the mucin genes was analyzed as a molecular marker of glandular cytodifferentiation in primary lung adenocarcinomas. Expression was correlated with histopathologic subtypes of World Health Organization classification with the aim of investigating the histogenesis of primary lung adenocarcinomas. Thirty-four primary lung adenocarcinomas were examined by in situ hybridization for mucin gene expression (MUC1-4, MUC5AC, MUC5B, MUC6-7) and by immunohistochemistry for MUC5AC and MUC5B apomucin expression. Mucinous bronchioloalveolar carcinoma (BAC) had a homogeneous pattern of mucin gene expression different from those of other types of lung adenocarcinoma, involving secreted mucins (MUC5AC, MUC5B, and MUC6) and membrane-bound mucins (MUC1, MUC3, and MUC4). Non-BAC adenocarcinoma and mucinous BAC aberrantly expressed mucin genes MUC3, and MUC3 and MUC6, respectively, which are undetectable in normal fetal and adult lung. Our results show the particular phenotype of mucin gene expression in mucinous type of BACs and the heterogeneous expression of respiratory and nonrespiratory mucins in the other types. This finding supports the theory of a common progenitor cell with the potential of multicellular differentiation. From a practical point of view, the aberrant expression of MUC3 and MUC6 could serve as a diagnostic marker in the management of the mucinous type of bronchioloalveolar carcinomas. HUM PATHOL 32:274-281.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / chemistry*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Adenocarcinoma, Bronchiolo-Alveolar / chemistry*
  • Adenocarcinoma, Bronchiolo-Alveolar / pathology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Gene Expression*
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Keratins / analysis
  • Lung Neoplasms / chemistry*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mucins / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis


  • Mucins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Keratins