Significance of mucin expression in pancreatobiliary neoplasms

J Hepatobiliary Pancreat Sci. 2010 Mar;17(2):108-24. doi: 10.1007/s00534-009-0174-7. Epub 2009 Sep 29.


Mucins are high molecular weight glycoproteins that play important roles in carcinogenesis and tumor invasion. We have described, for the first time, that pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDACs) with an aggressive behavior and a poor outcome expressed MUC1 (pan-epithelial membrane-associated mucin) but did not express MUC2 (intestinal-type secreted mucin), whereas intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMNs) with indolent behavior and a favorable outcome did not express MUC1 but did express MUC2. These expression profiles of MUC1 and MUC2 related to the prognoses of the patients were also observed in biliary neoplasms such as intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC)-mass-forming type (MF), mucin-producing bile duct tumor (MPBT), and extrahepatic bile duct carcinoma (EHBDC). We also found recently that high expression of MUC4 (tracheobronchial membrane-associated mucin) in PDACs, ICCs-MF, and EHBDCs was a new independent poor prognostic factor, although MUC4 was not expressed in normal pancreatobiliary tissue. High de novo expression of MUC5AC (gastric-type secreted mucin) was observed in many types of pancreatobiliary neoplasms, including all grades of pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) and biliary intraepithelial neoplasia (BilIN), and all types of IPMNs and MPBTs, as well as PDACs and ICCs-MF, although MUC5AC was not expressed in normal pancreatobiliary tissue. The combined status of MUC1, MUC2, MUC4, and MUC5AC expression may be useful for the early detection of pancreatobiliary neoplasms and evaluation of their malignancy. In regard to the mechanism of mucin expression, we have recently reported that MUC1, MUC2, MUC4, and MUC5AC gene expression is regulated by epigenetics (DNA methylation and histone H3 lysine 9 modification) in cancer cell lines, including PDAC cells. Translational research of mucin gene expression mechanisms, including epigenetics, in pancreatobiliary neoplasms may give us new tools for the early and accurate detection of these neoplasms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bile Duct Neoplasms / genetics
  • Bile Duct Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / biosynthesis
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • DNA, Neoplasm / genetics*
  • Disease Progression
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mucin 5AC / biosynthesis
  • Mucin 5AC / genetics
  • Mucin-1 / biosynthesis
  • Mucin-1 / genetics
  • Mucin-2 / biosynthesis
  • Mucin-2 / genetics
  • Mucin-4 / biosynthesis
  • Mucin-4 / genetics
  • Mucins / biosynthesis
  • Mucins / genetics*
  • Pancreas / metabolism*
  • Pancreas / pathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • MUC1 protein, human
  • MUC2 protein, human
  • MUC4 protein, human
  • MUC5AC protein, human
  • Mucin 5AC
  • Mucin-1
  • Mucin-2
  • Mucin-4
  • Mucins