Rationale: Mucin homeostasis is fundamental to airway health. Upregulation of airway mucus glycoprotein MUC5B is observed in diverse common lung diseases and represents a potential therapeutic target. In mice, Muc5b is required for mucociliary clearance and for controlling inflammation after microbial exposure. The consequences of its loss in humans are unclear. Objectives: The goal of this study was to identify and characterize a family with congenital absence of MUC5B protein. Methods: We performed whole-genome sequencing in an adult proband with unexplained bronchiectasis, impaired pulmonary function, and repeated Staphylococcus aureus infection. Deep phenotyping over a 12-year period included assessments of pulmonary radioaerosol mucociliary clearance. Genotyping with reverse phenotyping was organized for eight family members. Extensive experiments, including immunofluorescence staining and mass spectrometry for mucins, were performed across accessible sample types. Measurements and Main Results: The proband, and her symptomatic sibling who also had extensive sinus disease with nasal polyps, were homozygous for a novel splicing variant in the MUC5B gene (NM_002458.2: c.1938 + 1G>A). MUC5B was absent from saliva, sputum, and nasal samples. Mucociliary clearance was impaired in the proband, and large numbers of apoptotic macrophages were present in sputum. Three siblings heterozygous for the familial MUC5B variant were asymptomatic but had a shared pattern of mild lung function impairments. Conclusions: Congenital absence of MUC5B defines a new category of genetic respiratory disease. The human phenotype is highly concordant with that of the Muc5b-/- murine model. Further study of individuals with decreased MUC5B production could provide unique mechanistic insights into airway mucus biology.
Keywords: MUC5B; bronchiectasis; mucociliary clearance.