MUC1 is a large, heavily glycosylated mucin expressed on the apical surfaces of most simple, secretory epithelia including the mammary gland, gastrointestinal, respiratory, urinary and reproductive tracts. Although MUC1 was thought to be an epithelial-specific protein, it is now known to be expressed on a variety of hematopoietic cells as well. Mucins function in protection and lubrication of epithelial surfaces. Transmembrane mucins, which contain cytoplasmic tail domains, appear to have additional functions through their abilities to interact with many proteins involved in signal transduction and cell adhesion. The goal of this review is to highlight recent discoveries that suggest that MUC1 may be a multifunctional protein, located on the surfaces of cells as a sensor of the environment, poised to signal to the interior when things go awry.