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Biochimie. 1988 Nov;70(11):1471-82.

The complexity of mucins.

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INSERM U16, Lille, France.


Mucins represent the main components of gel-like secretions, or mucus, secreted by mucosae or some exocrine glands. These high-molecular-weight glycoproteins are characterized by the large number of carbohydrate chains O-glycosidically linked to the peptide. The determination of mucin molecular weight and conformation has been controversial for several reasons: 1) the methods used to solubilize mucus and to purify mucins are different and 2) the molecules have a strong tendency to aggregate or to bind to other molecules (peptides or lipids). Recently, electron microscopy has shown the filamentous shape of most mucins and their polydisperse character which, in some secretions, might correspond to a polymorphism of the peptide part of these molecules. The recent development of high pressure liquid chromatography and high-resolution proton NMR spectroscopy has allowed major progress in the structural study of mucin carbohydrate chains. These chains may have from 1 to about 20 sugars and bear different antigenic determinants, such as A, B, H, I, i, X, Y or Cad antigens. In some mucins, such as human respiratory mucins, the carbohydrate chain diversity is remarkable, which raises many questions. Mucins are molecules located at the interface between mucosae and the external environment. The carbohydrate chain diversity might allow many interactions between mucins and microorganisms and play a major role in the colonization or the defense of mucosae.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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