SPLUNC1 (PLUNC) is expressed in glandular tissues of the respiratory tract and in lung tumours with a glandular phenotype

J Pathol. 2005 Mar;205(4):491-7. doi: 10.1002/path.1726.


Short PLUNC1 (SPLUNC1) is the founding member of a novel family of proteins (PLUNC) expressed in the upper respiratory tract that may function in host defence. It is one of the most highly expressed genes in the upper airways and the protein has been detected in sputum and nasal secretions. This study describes, for the first time, the precise cellular localization of SPLUNC1 in human tissues from the respiratory tract. Although SPLUNC1 is found in some epithelial cells of the upper airways and coats the surface epithelial cell lining of the major airways, the most significant site of protein localization is in mucous cells and ducts of submucosal glands. Intense staining is also seen in minor glands of the nose, sinuses, posterior tongue and tonsil, suggesting that the protein is secreted into mucoid secretions of these tissues, where it probably functions in host defence. No staining was seen in peripheral lung tissue. As SPLUNC1 has been suggested to be a novel lung cancer marker, a limited panel of lung cancers was also studied. The findings suggest that SPLUNC1 is commonly expressed in adenocarcinomas, muco-epidermoid carcinoma, and bronchio-alveloar carcinoma, and is absent from small-cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. This expression pattern is consistent with the presumed phenotypic origin of these tumours and suggests that SPLUNC1 may be a useful marker for lung cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibody Specificity
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Epithelial Cells / chemistry
  • Epithelial Cells / immunology
  • Glycoproteins / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Lung Neoplasms / chemistry*
  • Lung Neoplasms / immunology
  • Nasal Mucosa / chemistry
  • Nasal Mucosa / immunology
  • Palatine Tonsil / chemistry
  • Palatine Tonsil / immunology
  • Phenotype
  • Phosphoproteins / analysis*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / chemistry
  • Respiratory Mucosa / immunology
  • Respiratory System / chemistry*
  • Respiratory System / immunology
  • Tongue / chemistry
  • Tongue / immunology


  • BPIFA1 protein, human
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Glycoproteins
  • Phosphoproteins