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Hum Reprod. 2006 Nov;21(11):2783-93. Epub 2006 Sep 22.

Mucin gene expression in human male urogenital tract epithelia.

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  • 1Schepens Eye Research Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02114, USA.



Mucins are large, hydrophilic glycoproteins that protect wet-surfaced epithelia from pathogen invasion as well as provide lubrication. At least 17 mucin genes have been cloned to date. This study sought to determine the mucin gene expression profile of the human male urogenital tract epithelia, to determine if mucins are present in seminal fluid and to assess the effect of androgens on mucin expression.


Testis, epididymis, vas deferens, seminal vesicle, prostate, bladder, urethra and foreskin were assessed for mucin expression by RT-PCR (for 14 mucin genes) and immunohistochemistry (nine antibodies for five mucins). Epithelia of the vas deferens, prostate and urethra expressed the greatest number of mucins, each with mRNA for between 5 and 8 mucins. Except for MUC20 in epididymis, mRNA for MUC1 and MUC20, both membrane-associated mucins, was detected in all tissues analysed. By comparison, MUC6 was more restricted in expression, being primarily detected in seminal vesicle. MUC1, MUC5B and MUC6 were detected in seminal fluid samples by immunoblot analysis. Androgens had no effect on mucin expression in cultured human prostatic epithelial cells.


Each region of urogenital tract epithelium expressed a unique mucin gene repertoire. Secretory mucins are present in seminal fluid, and androgens do not appear to regulate mucin gene expression in prostatic epithelial cells in culture.

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