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Immunology. 2003 Jan;108(1):32-41.

Form and pattern of MUC1 expression on T cells activated in vivo or in vitro suggests a function in T-cell migration.

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Cancer Research UK, Breast Cancer Biology Group, Guy's Hospital, London, UK.


MUC1 is a transmembrane mucin that is expressed on ductal epithelial cells and epithelial malignancies and has been proposed as a target antigen for immunotherapy. The expression of MUC1 has recently been reported on T and B cells. In this study we demonstrate that following activation in vivo or activation by different stimuli in vitro, human T cells expressed MUC1 at the cell surface. However, the level of expression in activated human T cells was significantly lower than that seen on normal epithelial cells or on breast cancer cells. In contrast, resting T cells did not bind MUC1-specific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), nor was MUC1 mRNA detectable by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) or Northern blot analysis in these cells. The profile of activated T-cell reactivity with different MUC1-specific antibodies suggested that the glycoform of MUC1 expressed by the activated T cells carried core 2-based O-glycans, as opposed to the core 1 structures that dominate in the cancer-associated mucin. Confocal microscopy revealed that MUC1 was uniformly distributed on the surface of activated T cells. However, when the cells were polarized in response to a migratory chemokine, MUC1 was found on the leading edge rather than on the uropod, where other large mucin-like molecules on T cells are trafficked. The concentration of MUC1 at the leading edge of polarized activated human T cells suggests that MUC1 could be involved in early interactions between T cells and endothelial cells at inflammatory sites.

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