From mucins to mucus: toward a more coherent understanding of this essential barrier.

David J. Thornton, John K. Sheehan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Mucus is essential for protection of the airways; however, in chronic airway disease mucus hypersecretion is an important factor in morbidity and mortality. The properties of the mucus gel are dictated in large part by the oligomeric mucins and, over the past decade, we have gained a better understanding of the molecular nature of these complex O-linked glycoproteins. We know now that MUC5AC mucins, as well as different glycoforms of the MUC5B mucin, are the predominant gel-forming glycoproteins in airways mucus. Furthermore, the amount, molecular size, and morphology of these glycoproteins can be altered in disease. From more recent data, it has become clear that oligomeric mucins alone do not constitute mucus, and other mucin and nonmucin components must be important contributors to mucus organization and hence airways defense. Therefore, the challenge over the coming decade will be to investigate how the oligomeric mucins are organized to yield "functional" mucus. Such studies will provide a clearer perception of airways mucosal protection and may highlight specific components as potential targets for therapeutic strategies for the treatment of hypersecretory disease.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)54-61
    Number of pages7
    JournalAmerican Thoracic Society. Proceedings
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


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