Structure and function of the polymeric mucins in airways mucus

Annu Rev Physiol. 2008;70:459-86. doi: 10.1146/annurev.physiol.70.113006.100702.


The airways mucus gel performs a critical function in defending the respiratory tract against pathogenic and environmental challenges. In normal physiology, the secreted mucins, in particular the polymeric mucins MUC5AC and MUC5B, provide the organizing framework of the airways mucus gel and are major contributors to its rheological properties. However, overproduction of mucins is an important factor in the morbidity and mortality of chronic airways disease (e.g., asthma, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The roles of these enormous, multifunctional, O-linked glycoproteins in health and disease are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Lung Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Mucins / chemistry
  • Mucins / physiology*
  • Mucus / chemistry
  • Mucus / physiology*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Mucins