Mucin gene structure and expression: protection vs. adhesion

Am J Physiol. 1995 Nov;269(5 Pt 1):G613-27. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.1995.269.5.G613.


The cloning of mucin cDNAs brought about by the application of molecular biology and molecular analyses constitutes a major step in understanding mucin structure and function. Here two classes of mucins are described: epithelium-associated and endothelium/leukocyte-associated mucins, which have thus far been described separately in the literature. The epithelial mucins are generally believed to play a role in cytoprotection. The endothelial and leukocyte class of mucins are adhesion molecules involved in lymphocyte homing and lymphocyte activation or are part of the adhesion cascade that plays a role in the initiation of inflammation. Mucins in general contain many threonine and serine residues, which are extensively O-glycosylated. Due to this profound glycosylation, mucins have a filamentous conformation. By virtue of their extended filamentous, and often negatively charged, structure, mucins can act as a barrier protecting the cell. However, when an opposing cell has specific receptors for mucins, adhesion can override the barrier function. Therefore, mucins may be powerful two-edged swords: they are both protective and adhesive.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alternative Splicing
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Endothelium / metabolism
  • Gene Expression*
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mucins / classification
  • Mucins / genetics*
  • Mucins / physiology
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Mucins