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Am J Surg Pathol. 2005 Jun;29(6):806-13.

Expression of membrane-bound mucins (MUC1 and MUC4) and secreted mucins (MUC2, MUC5AC, MUC5B, MUC6 and MUC7) in mucoepidermoid carcinomas of salivary glands.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Hospital ClĂ­nic, IDIBAPS, University of Barcelona, Villaroel 170, 08036 Barcelona, Spain.


Mucins are glycoproteins normally synthesized by a variety of secretory epithelial cells. The aim of this study was to investigate the expression of mucins (MUC1, MUC2, MUC4, MUC5AC, MUCB, MUC6, MUC7) in mucoepidermoid carcinomas, the most frequent malignant tumor of salivary glands. Forty mucoepidermoid carcinomas and twenty-two normal salivary glands were studied for these mucins by immunohistochemistry from formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded material. Normal salivary glands frequently expressed MUC1 and MUC4, mainly in ductal cells; MUC5B and MUC7 stained mucous and serous acini respectively of submandibular and minor salivary glands; and MUC5AC and MUC2 were poorly detected in excretory ducts. All mucoepidermoid carcinomas expressed MUC1, and 38/40 tumors expressed MUC4. Both membrane-bound mucins stained membranes and cytoplasm of all cell types (epidermoid, intermediate, mucous, clear and columnar). MUC5AC and MUC5B stained glandular differentiated cells in most tumors (29/40 and 33/40 cases, respectively). MUC6 was positive in 13/40 tumors, and both MUC2 and MUC7 in only 2/40 tumors. The high expression of MUC1 was related to high histologic grades, high recurrence and metastasis rates and a shorter disease-free interval (P < 0.05). Conversely, MUC4 high expression was mainly related to low-grade tumors, lower recurrence rates and a longer disease-free interval (P < 0.05). In conclusion, mucoepidermoid carcinomas of salivary glands usually express MUC1, MUC4, MUC5AC and MUC5B; less frequently MUC6; and rarely MUC2 and MUC7. This mucin expression pattern can be useful for diagnostic purposes. Therefore, MUC1 expression is related to tumor progression and worse prognosis, whereas MUC4 expression is related to a better prognosis.

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