Reassessment of the importance of mucins in determining sputum properties in cystic fibrosis

Alex Horsley, Karine Rousseau, Caroline Ridley, William Flight, Andrew Jones, Thomas A. Waigh, David J. Thornton

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Background: There is conflicting evidence about the importance of airway mucins (MUC5AC and MUC5B) in determining physical properties of sputum in cystic fibrosis (CF). We studied the effects of endogenous degradation of mucins on CF sputum elasticity and apparent mucin concentrations. Methods: Elastic shear moduli (G') and mucin concentrations in sputum of 12 CF patients were measured before and after incubation at 37. °C for 60. min. Results: G' fell from a median of 5.98 to 4.70. Pa (p. = 0.01). There were significant falls in MUC5AC (8.2 to 5.2. μg/ml, p. = 0.02) and MUC5B (17.3 to 12.5. μg/ml, p. = 0.02) over the same period, and associated decrease in molecular weight and size. Conclusions: Sputum is not inert and degradation reduces apparent mucin concentrations and sputum elasticity. Even if care is taken to process samples rapidly, sputum may therefore differ from secretions retained in airways. Previous studies may have underestimated the role of mucins in CF sputum. © 2013 European Cystic Fibrosis Society.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)260-266
    Number of pages6
    JournalJournal of Cystic Fibrosis
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • Cystic fibrosis
    • Lung inflammation
    • Mucin
    • Proteolysis


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