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Cancer Res. 1999 Mar 1;59(5):1003-7.

Intestinal metaplasia of human stomach displays distinct patterns of mucin (MUC1, MUC2, MUC5AC, and MUC6) expression.

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  • 1Institute of Molecular Pathology and Immunology of the University of Porto, Portugal.


Intestinal metaplasia is a well-established premalignant condition of the stomach that is characterized by mucin carbohydrate modifications defined by histochemical methods. The purpose of the present study was to see whether the expression of mucin core proteins was modified in the different types of intestinal metaplasia and to evaluate the putative usefulness of mucins as "molecular markers" in this setting. We used a panel of monoclonal antibodies with well-defined specificities to MUC1, MUC2, MUC5AC, and MUC6 to characterize the expression pattern of mucins. In contrast to normal gastric mucosa, the complete form or type I intestinal metaplasia (n = 20) displayed little or no expression of MUC1, MUC5AC, or MUC6 in the metaplastic cells and strong expression of the intestinal mucin MUC2 in the goblet cells of all cases. The incomplete forms of intestinal metaplasia, type II (n = 25) and type III (n = 16), expressed MUC1 and MUC5AC in every case, both in goblet and in columnar cells. MUC6 was also expressed in 16 cases of type II intestinal metaplasia and in 11 cases of type III intestinal metaplasia. The intestinal mucin MUC2 was expressed in every case of incomplete intestinal metaplasia, mostly in goblet cells. The mucin expression profile in the different types of intestinal metaplasia allows the identification of two patterns: one defined by decreased levels of expression of "gastric" mucins (MUC1, MUC5AC, and MUC6) and expression of MUC2 intestinal mucin, which corresponds to type I intestinal metaplasia, and the other defined by coexpression of "gastric mucins" (MUC1, MUC5AC, and MUC6) together with the MUC2 mucin, encompassing types II and III intestinal metaplasia. Our results challenge the classical sequential pathway of intestinal metaplasia (from type I to type III via a type II intermediate step).

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