Role of mucus in gastric mucosal protection

J Physiol Pharmacol. 1991 Jun;42(2):147-61.


Even though there is no general agreement as to the mechanism of gastric mucosal protection, the consensus is that the initial brunt of luminal insults falls on the mucus layer which constitutes the only identifiable physical barrier between the gastric lumen and the mucosal surface. The continuous renewal and resilient nature of this layer efficiently counters peptic erosion of the gel, assures its viscoelastic and permselective properties, and provides a milieu for containment of the diffusing luminal acid by mucosal bicarbonate. Disturbances in this delicate balance lead to the impairment of the protective function of mucus resulting in gastric disease. Indeed, the weakening of gastric mucosal defense is intimately associated with the diminished viscoelastic qualities of mucus, decrease in hydrogen ion retardation capacity, and the extensive proteolysis of its mucin component. Although until recently the disintegration of the mucus coat was attributed exclusively to the enhanced activity of intragastric pepsin, our studies provided strong argument that a bacterial factor, namely infection by Helicobacter pylori, through the action of its protease and lipase enzymes also is highly detrimental to the integrity of gastric mucus. Hence, agents capable of interfering with the pathogenic activity of this bacteria are becoming the drugs of choice in peptic ulcer therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Ulcer Agents / pharmacology
  • Gastric Mucosa / drug effects
  • Gastric Mucosa / metabolism
  • Gastric Mucosa / physiology*
  • Gels
  • Helicobacter pylori / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mucins / physiology
  • Mucus / physiology*


  • Anti-Ulcer Agents
  • Gels
  • Mucins