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Novartis Found Symp. 2006;279:155-66; discussion 167-9, 216-9.

Innate immunity and mucus structure and function.

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Cystic Fibrosis Center, Campus Box 7248, 4019a Thurston Bowles, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


Many of the proteins associated with innate immunity in the upper respiratory tract are to be found localized into mucus gels and the mucin-rich surface layers of the epithelium and the cilia. Mucus is a relatively dilute suspension of such macromolecules being around 2-4% solids in normal induced sputum. These proteins scavenge, immobilise and/or kill pathogens and at the same time immobilize them into the mucus. Mucus is moved from the lung by the mucociliary clearance mechanisms or by cough. Some 190 proteins are readily detectable in sputum by proteomics methods and about 100 in bronchial air-liquid interface culture secretions. This cell culture system mimics the surface ciliated phenotype of the large airways very well and about 85 secreted proteins are common to both culture and sputum secretions. The major single protein by weight in cell culture secretions is MUC5B and in sputum a mixture of MUC5B and MUC5AC. The three epithelial mucins MUC1, 4 and 16 are also detectable in both secretions. In this paper the roles that these molecules play in protecting and stabilising the ciliated surface and building the gel will be discussed. The role of water and ion homeostasis is particularly crucial in mucus gel formation and evidence is gathering that it is perturbation of hydration mechanisms that may play into defective mucus leading subsequently to stasis and mechanical problems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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