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Biochem J. Sep 1, 1979; 181(3): 725–732.
PMCID: PMC1161213

The role of disulphide bonds in human intestinal mucin


Goblet-cell mucin (mucin 1) was isolated and purified from human small-intestinal scrapings. After application of mucin 1 to DEAE-Bio-Gel (A) columns, most of the glycoprotein (76–94% of hexoses) was eluted in the first peak (designated mucin 2). Minor amounts of acidic glycoproteins were eluted with 0.2m- and 0.4m-NaCl in later peaks. Analyses of mucin 1 and mucin 2 revealed mucin 2 to be a monodisperse highly glycosylated glycoprotein containing 6.3% by wt. of protein, N-acetylgalactosamine, N-acetylglucosamine, galactose and fucose. Mucin 1 was similar in composition, but was polydisperse and contained more protein (12.3% by wt.) as well as N-acetylneuraminic acid. Analytical CsCl-gradient ultracentrifugation showed both mucin 1 and mucin 2 to have a major component with an average buoyant density of 1.47000g/ml. Mucin 1 also contained a slightly less-dense minor glycoprotein component. After exhaustive reduction and alkylation mucin 1 retained its major component, but partly dissociated into two lighter glycoprotein components. Mucin 2, in contrast, did not change its density distribution after reduction. Band ultracentrifugation in 2H2O-containing iso-osmotic buffers showed that mucin 1 contained a major fast-sedimenting component (so=37±2S), and a minor amount of a slower-sedimenting component. After reduction there was an increased quantity of the latter component, for which an so value of 14.5S was calculated. In contrast, mucin 2 was unaltered by reduction (so=33±2S). These findings indicate that the major component of goblet-cell mucin (mucin 2) does not dissociate after S–S-bond reduction, and thus does not apparently rely for its polymeric structure on the association of subunits through covalent disulphide bonds. However, the effects of reduction on mucin 1 suggest that in the native mucin intramolecular disulphide bonds in the minor glycoproteins may stabilize their structure, permitting secondary non-covalent interactions to develop with the major dense mucin (mucin 2) protein.

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Selected References

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