A longstanding question in obstructive airway disease is whether observed changes in mucin composition and/or posttranslational glycosylation are due to genetic or to environmental factors. We tested whether the mucins secreted by second-passage primary human bronchial epithelial cell cultures derived from noncystic fibrosis (CF) or CF patients have intrinsically different specific mucin compositions, and whether these mucins are glycosylated differently. Both CF and non-CF cultures produced MUC5B, predominantly, as judged by quantitative agarose gel Western blots with mucin-specific antibodies: MUC5B was present at approximately 10-fold higher levels than MUC5AC, consistent with our previous mRNA studies (Bernacki SH, Nelson AL, Abdullah L, Sheehan JK, Harris A, William DC, and Randell SH. Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol 20: 595-604, 1999). O-linked oligosaccharides released from purified non-CF and CF mucins and studied by HPLC mass spectrometry had highly variable glycan structures, and there were no observable differences between the two groups. Hence, there were no differences in either the specific mucins or their O-glycans that correlated with the CF phenotype under the noninfected/noninflammatory conditions of cell culture. We conclude that the differences observed in the mucins sampled directly from patients are most likely due to environmental factors relating to infection and/or inflammation.