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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2001 Jan;24(1):22-29.

Mucins as differentiation markers in bronchial epithelium. Squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma display similar expression patterns.

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Unitat de Biologia Cellular i Molecular, Institut Municipal d'Investigació Mèdica, Barcelona; Servei de Pneumologia and Servei de Patologia, Hospital de Mar, Barcelona; and Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain.


Highly glycosylated apomucins are important to maintain the viscoelastic properties of the mucus. Changes in their expression are frequently associated with inflammatory and neoplastic conditions. We analyzed the expression of apomucins in normal respiratory tract (n = 8) and compared it with distal, peritumoral, and tumoral epithelia from patients with squamous cell carcinoma (n = 20), adenocarcinoma (n = 13), and small cell carcinoma (n = 12). Squamous metaplasia (n = 16) was also analyzed. MUC1, MUC2, MUC4, MUC5AC, MUC6, and MUC8 apomucins were detected by immunohistochemistry, and mucin transcripts by in situ hybridization and reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Bronchial epithelium from normal individuals and distal epithelium from cancer patients showed a similar expression pattern: MUC1, MUC4, and MUC8 were always present, MUC2 and MUC5AC showed more variability, and MUC6 was focally detected. MUC5AC was downregulated in peritumoral epithelium and in squamous metaplasia, and MUC6 was upregulated in peritumoral epithelium. A reduced expression of MUC4, MUC5AC, and MUC8 was observed in non-small cell carcinomas, regardless of their histologic subtype. In small cell tumors, only MUC1 was consistently expressed.


(1) peritumoral epithelium and squamous metaplasia show an abnormal pattern of mucin expression; (2) squamous cell carcinomas and adenocarcinomas display a similar pattern of mucin gene expression, supporting the concept of a common cellular origin.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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