Utility of KL-6/MUC1 in the clinical management of interstitial lung diseases

Respir Investig. 2012 Mar;50(1):3-13. doi: 10.1016/j.resinv.2012.02.001. Epub 2012 Mar 8.


Interstitial lung diseases (ILDs) are a diverse group of pulmonary disorders characterized by various patterns of inflammation and fibrosis in the interstitium of the lung. Because injury and/or regeneration of type II pneumocytes are prominent histological features of ILDs, substances derived from type II pneumocytes have been the focus of research investigating potential biomarkers for ILD. One important biomarker for ILD is the high-molecular-weight glycoprotein, Krebs von den Lungen-6 (KL-6). KL-6 is now classified as a human MUC1 mucin protein, and regenerating type II pneumocytes are the primary cellular source of KL-6/MUC1 in the affected lungs of patients with ILD. KL-6/MUC1 is detectable in the serum of patients with ILD, and extensive investigations performed primarily in Japan have revealed that serum KL-6/MUC1 is elevated in 70-100% of patients with various ILDs, including idiopathic interstitial pneumonias, collagen vascular disease-associated interstitial pneumonia, hypersensitivity pneumonia, radiation pneumonitis, drug-induced ILDs, acute respiratory distress syndrome, pulmonary sarcoidosis, and pulmonary alveolar proteinosis. The results from these various studies have supported the utility of KL-6/MUC1 as a serum biomarker for detecting these various ILDs. Moreover, KL-6/MUC1 serum levels have been demonstrated to be useful for evaluating disease activity and predicting the clinical outcomes of various ILD types. Based on these observations, we believe that KL-6/MUC1 is currently one of the best and most reliable serum biomarkers available for ILD management.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alveolar Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Alveolar Epithelial Cells / physiology
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Forecasting
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / diagnosis*
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / pathology
  • Mucin-1 / blood*
  • Mucin-1 / genetics
  • Racial Groups / genetics
  • Regeneration


  • Biomarkers
  • MUC1 protein, human
  • Mucin-1