Identification of human olfactory cleft mucus proteins using proteomic analysis

J Proteome Res. 2007 May;6(5):1985-96. doi: 10.1021/pr0606575. Epub 2007 Mar 24.


In humans, the olfactory epithelium is located in two narrow passages, the olfactory clefts, at the upper part of the nasal cavities. The olfactory epithelium is covered by a mucus layer which is essential for the function of the olfactory neurons that are directly connected with the brain through the cribriform plate. This anatomical weakness of the brain protection may be the source of infection. Little is known about the composition of this mucus in humans. Previous proteomic analyses have been performed on washes of the entire nasal cavities and therefore might better correspond to the mucus over the respiratory epithelium than to the mucus covering the olfactory epithelium. In the present study, we sampled the olfactory mucus directly from the clefts of 16 healthy adult volunteers, and 83 proteins were identified in the samples using two-dimensional gel electrophoresis, MALDI-TOF, RPLC, and Edman sequencing. Forty-three proteins were not previously observed either in nasal mucus sampled through washings, saliva, tear, or cerebrospinal fluid. In Accordance with the data in the protein databases, the most abundant proteins are secreted, whereas some others correspond to intracellular proteins covering a large range of functions: anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, protease inhibition, antioxidant, transport, transcription, transduction, cytoskeletal, regulation, binding, and metabolism of odorant molecules. This study clearly demonstrates the complexity of the mucus covering the human olfactory epithelium, which might comprise potential markers for characterizing pathophysiological states.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Databases, Protein
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Two-Dimensional
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mucus / chemistry*
  • Olfactory Mucosa* / anatomy & histology
  • Olfactory Mucosa* / chemistry
  • Proteins / analysis*
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteome / analysis*
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization


  • Proteins
  • Proteome