Histochemical characteristics of mucins in the small intestine. A comparative study of normal mucosa, benign epithelial tumours and carcinoma

Histochem J. 1979 May;11(3):277-87. doi: 10.1007/BF01005027.


The histochemical properties of the mucins in seven benign epithelial tumours and 15 carcinomas distributed along the duodenum, jejunum and ileum were investigated and compared with normal controls. This study reveals that (a) goblet cells in normal small intestine contain neutral and sialomucins but no sulphated material; (b) the proportion of the different types of mucins in the goblet cells vary along the crypts and villi with an increasing amount of sialomucins towards the villus top; (c) mucin composition also changes from duodenum to ileum particularly in the proportions of sialic acid types and in the presence of traces of sulphomucins in the ileal mucosa close to the ileo-caecal valve, suggesting a gradual transition through the small intestine to the colon; (d) benign tumours show the same mucin pattern as normal mucosa; (e) the adjacent to carcinoma shows increasing amounts of sialomucins and sulphomucins; (f) carcinomas present a variety of mucin patterns, and thus the study of mucins seems to be of no value in differentiating tumours of the small intestine from those elsewhere in the gastrointestinal tract. A working hypothesis based on the Unitary Theory of the origin of the intestinal epithelial cells is proposed to explain the variations in glycoprotein synthesis with cell differentiation and carcinogenes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Duodenum / analysis
  • Female
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Humans
  • Ileum / analysis
  • Intestinal Mucosa / analysis*
  • Intestinal Neoplasms / analysis*
  • Intestine, Small / analysis*
  • Jejunum / analysis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mucins / analysis*
  • Sex Factors


  • Mucins