Highly glycosylated regions or glycopeptides were obtained by proteolysis of human tracheobronchial mucins. They were chemically deglycosylated and the resulting products were used to raise a rabbit antiserum. This antiserum specifically recognized the superanuclear region of respiratory and colonic goblet cells as areas around and below the nucleus of mucin-secreting cells in tracheobronchial mucous glands. A lambda gt11 cDNA library constructed from human tracheobronchial mucosa was screened with this antiserum. Ten positive clones were obtained from screening half of the library (about 10(6) recombinants). The antibodies were purified by absorption to each positive clone; some purified antibodies were specific for goblet cells and others recognized both goblet and mucous cells, indicating that there is differential cellular expression of mucin peptides. The total or partial amino acid sequences deduced from these cDNA clones could be classified into three groups. The first group contained repetitive sequences of eight amino acid residues, almost perfectly identical, and in different arrangements. The second type exhibited homology at their amino and carboxy-terminal ends. The last group had no distinctive feature except for a high content of hydroxy amino acids typical of mucins. Five different clones could correspond to the carboxy-terminal end of tracheobronchial apomucins. These results indicate that human tracheobronchial apomucins consist of a family of different proteins.