Airway mucins are the major molecular constituents of mucus. Mucus forms the first barrier to invading organisms in the airways and is an important defense mechanism of the lung. We confirm that mucin concentrations are significantly decreased in airway secretions of subjects with cystic fibrosis (CF) who have chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection. In sputum from CF subjects without a history of P. aeruginosa, we found no significant difference in the mucin concentration compared to mucus from normal controls. We demonstrate that mucins can be degraded by synthetic human neutrophil elastase (HNE) and P. aeruginosa elastase B (pseudolysin) and that degradation was inhibited by serine proteases inhibitors (diisopropyl fluorophosphates [DFP], phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride [PMSF], and 1-chloro-3-tosylamido-7-amino-2-heptanone HCl [TLCK]). The mucin concentration in airway secretions from CF subjects is similar to that for normal subjects until there is infection by P. aeruginosa, and after that, the mucin concentration decreases dramatically. This is most likely due to degradation by serine proteases. The loss of this mucin barrier may contribute to chronic airway infection in the CF airway.
Mucus secretions have played a central role in the evolution of multicellular organisms, enabling adaptation to widely differing environments. In vertebrates, mucus covers and protects the epithelial cells in the respiratory, gastrointestinal, urogenital, visual, and auditory systems, amphibian's epidermis, and the gills in fishes. Deregulation of mucus production and/or composition has important consequences for human health. For example, mucus obstruction of small airways is observed in chronic airway diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and cystic fibrosis. The major protein component in the mucus is a family of large, disulfide-bonded glycoproteins known as gel-forming mucins. These proteins are accumulated in large, regulated secretory granules (the mucin granules) that occupy most of the apical cytoplasm of specialized cells known as mucous/goblet cells. Since mucin oligomers have contour dimensions larger than the mucin granule average diameter, the question arises how these highly hydrophilic macromolecules are organized within these organelles. I review here the intraluminal organization of the mucin granule in view of our knowledge on the structure, biosynthesis, and biophysical properties of gel-forming mucins, and novel imaging studies in living mucous/goblet cells. The emerging concept is that the mucin granule lumen comprises a partially condensed matrix meshwork embedded in a fluid phase where proteins slowly diffuse.
granule matrix; mucin granules; mucins; secretory granules; secretion
Mucus accumulation is a feature of inflammatory airway disease in the horse and has been associated with reduced performance in racehorses. In this study, we have analysed the two major airways gel-forming mucins Muc5b and Muc5ac in respect of their site of synthesis, their biochemical properties, and their amounts in mucus from healthy horses and from horses with signs of airway mucus accumulation. Polyclonal antisera directed against equine Muc5b and Muc5ac were raised and characterised. Immunohistochemical staining of normal equine trachea showed that Muc5ac and Muc5b are produced by cells in the submucosal glands, as well as surface epithelial goblet cells. Western blotting after agarose gel electrophoresis of airway mucus from healthy horses, and horses with mucus accumulation, was used to determine the amounts of these two mucins in tracheal wash samples. The results showed that in healthy horses Muc5b was the predominant mucin with small amounts of Muc5ac. The amounts of Muc5b and Muc5ac were both dramatically increased in samples collected from horses with high mucus scores as determined visually at the time of endoscopy and that this increase also correlated with increase number of bacteria present in the sample. The change in amount of Muc5b and Muc5ac indicates that Muc5b remains the most abundant mucin in mucus. In summary, we have developed mucin specific polyclonal antibodies, which have allowed us to show that there is a significant increase in Muc5b and Muc5ac in mucus accumulated in equine airways and these increases correlated with the numbers of bacteria.
Airway mucus is a complex airway secretion whose primary function as part of the mucociliary transport mechanism is to to serve as renewable and transportable barrier against inhaled particulates and toxic agents. The rheologic properties necessary for this function are imparted by glycoproteins, or mucins. Some respiratory disease states, e.g., asthma, cystic fibrosis, and bronchitis, are characterized by quantitative and qualitative changes in mucus biosynthesis that contribute to pulmonary pathology. Similar alterations in various aspects of mucin biochemistry and biophysics, leading to mucus hypersecretion and altered mucus rheology, result from inhalation of certain air pollutants, such as ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and cigarette smoke. The consequences of these pollutant-induced alterations in mucus biology are discussed in the context of pulmonary pathophysiology and toxicology.
Purpose of review
Airway mucus plugging has long been recognized as a principal cause of death in asthma. However, molecular mechanisms of mucin overproduction and secretion have not been understood until recently. These mechanisms are reviewed together with ongoing investigations relating them to lung pathophysiology.
Of the five secreted gel-forming mucins in mammals, only MUC5AC and MUC5B are produced in significant quantities in intrapulmonary airways. MUC5B is the principal gel-forming mucin at baseline in small airways of humans and mice, and therefore likely performs most homeostatic clearance functions. MUC5AC is the principal gel-forming mucin upregulated in airway inflammation and is under negative control by forkhead box a2 and positive control by hypoxia inducible factor-1. Mucin secretion is regulated separately from production, principally by extracellular triphosphate nucleotides that bind P2Y2 receptors on the lumenal surface of airway secretory cells, generating intracellular second messengers that activate the exocytic proteins, Munc13-2 and synaptotagmin-2.
Markedly upregulated production of MUC5AC together with stimulated secretion leads to airflow obstruction in asthma. As MUC5B appears to mediate homeostatic functions, it may be possible to selectively inhibit MUC5AC production without impairing airway function. The precise roles of mucin hypersecretion in asthma symptoms such as dyspnea and cough and in physiologic phenomena such as airway hyperresponsiveness remain to be defined.
airway; asthma; mucin; mucous; mucus
Airway surface liquid, often referred to as mucus, is a thin layer of fluid covering the luminal surface that plays an important defensive role against foreign particles and chemicals entering the lungs. Airway mucus contains various macromolecules, the most abundant being mucin glycoproteins, which contribute to its defensive function. Airway epithelial cells cultured in vitro secrete mucins and nonmucin proteins from their apical surface that mimics mucus production in vivo. The current study was undertaken to identify the polypeptide constituents of human airway epithelial cell secretions to gain a better understanding of the protein composition of respiratory mucus.
Fifty-five proteins were identified in the high molecular weight fraction of apical secretions collected from in vitro cultures of well-differentiated primary human airway epithelial cells and isolated under physiological conditions. Among these were MUC1, MUC4, MUC5B, and MUC16 mucins. By proteomic analysis, the nonmucin proteins could be classified as inflammatory, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and/or anti-microbial.
Because the majority of the nonmucin proteins possess molecular weights less than that selected for analysis, it is theoretically possible that they may associate with the high molecular weight and negatively charged mucins to form a highly ordered structural organization that is likely to be important for maintaining the proper defensive function of airway mucus.
Goblet cell metaplasia that causes mucus hypersecretion and obstruction in the airway lumen could be life threatening in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients. Inflammatory cytokines such as IL-13 mediate the transformation of airway ciliary epithelial cells to mucin-secreting goblet cells in acute as well as chronic airway inflammatory diseases. However, no effective and specific pharmacologic treatment is currently available. Here, we investigated the mechanisms by which aldose reductase (AR) regulates the mucus cell metaplasia in vitro and in vivo.
Metaplasia in primary human small airway epithelial cells (SAEC) was induced by a Th2 cytokine, IL-13, without or with AR inhibitor, fidarestat. After 48 h of incubation with IL-13 a large number of SAEC were transformed into goblet cells as determined by periodic acid-schiff (PAS)-staining and immunohistochemistry using antibodies against Mucin5AC. Further, IL-13 significantly increased the expression of Mucin5AC at mRNA and protein levels. These changes were significantly prevented by treatment of the SAEC with AR inhibitor. AR inhibition also decreased IL-13-induced expression of Muc5AC, Muc5B, and SPDEF, and phosphorylation of JAK-1, ERK1/2 and STAT-6. In a mouse model of ragweed pollen extract (RWE)-induced allergic asthma treatment with fidarestat prevented the expression of IL-13, phosphorylation of STAT-6 and transformation of epithelial cells to goblet cells in the lung. Additionally, while the AR-null mice were resistant, wild-type mice showed goblet cell metaplasia after challenge with RWE.
The results show that exposure of SAEC to IL-13 caused goblet cell metaplasia, which was significantly prevented by AR inhibition. Administration of fidarestat to mice prevented RWE-induced goblet cell metaplasia and AR null mice were largely resistant to allergen induced changes in the lung. Thus our results indicate that AR inhibitors such as fidarestat could be developed as therapeutic agents to prevent goblet cell metaplasia in asthma and related pathologies.
Mucus clearance is the primary defense mechanism that protects airways from inhaled infectious and toxic agents. In the current Gel-on-Liquid mucus clearance model mucus gel is propelled on top of a “watery” periciliary layer surrounding the cilia. However, this model fails to explain the formation of distinct mucus layer in health or why mucus clearance fails in disease. We propose a Gel-on-Brush model in which the periciliary layer is occupied by membrane spanning mucins and mucopolysaccharides densely tethered to the airway surface. This brush prevents mucus penetration into the periciliary space and causes mucus to form a distinct layer. The relative osmotic moduli of the mucus and periciliary brush layers explain both the stability of mucus clearance in health and its failure in airway disease.
The mucus lining of the gastrointestinal tract serves as a protective barrier over the epithelial surface that must be crossed by invading bacteria seeking entry into the mucosa. The gel-forming component of mucus is mucin, a large polymeric glycoprotein. The present study examined the growth of Yersinia enterocolitica (with and without its virulence plasmid) in purified rabbit small intestinal mucin and the ability of bacteria to degrade mucin. Both virulent and nonvirulent organisms showed enhanced growth in mucin-supplemented media compared with unsupplemented media, but only at 37 degrees C and not at 25 degrees C. The effects of mucin were not specific because medium supplemented with bovine serum albumin also enhanced bacterial growth at 37 degrees C. Purified mucin was broken down into lower-molecular-weight components (assessed by monitoring its elution profile on a Sepharose CL-2B column) by plasmid-bearing Y. enterocolitica but not by plasmid-cured organisms. Culturing virulent Y. enterocolitica at 25 degrees C completely suppressed its capacity to degrade mucin, suggesting that this activity depends on plasmid expression. These results were confirmed in similar studies with purified rabbit colonic mucin. Mucin-degrading activity could be demonstrated in spent culture media from virulent Y. enterocolitica incubated at 37 degrees C but not in bacterial membrane preparations. Changes in the elution profiles of small intestinal and colonic mucins exposed to plasmid-bearing Y. enterocolitica at 37 degrees C were consistent with proteolytic depolymerization. The ability to grow well in mucin may help Y. enterocolitica to colonize the intestine, while the production of a mucin-degrading enzyme(s) by plasmid-bearing organisms may assist pathogenic strains to solubilize and penetrate the mucus gel layer.
Background—It has been proposed that a pathogenic
effect of Helicobacter pylori is a weakening of the
protective mucus barrier; however, this remains controversial.
Aims—To clarify the effects of H
pylori infection on the mucus gel barrier in vivo.
Methods—Mucus gel polymeric structure and the
thickness of the adherent mucus barrier were measured in endoscopic
biopsy samples in subjects with and without H pylori
Results—There was a significant 18% reduction in
the proportion of polymeric gel forming mucin in the adherent mucus
layer in H pylori positive compared with negative
subjects. There was no change in the adherent mucus thickness between
H pylori positive and negative subjects without gastric
atrophy (mean (SD): 104(26) µm, 106 (30) µm respectively). There
was however a significant reduction in mucus thickness in those H
pylori positive subjects with underlying gastric atrophy (84 (13) µm, p=0.03) compared with those without atrophy.
Conclusions—A partial breakdown in gel forming
structure of the gastric mucus barrier does occur in H
pylori infection per se but this is insufficient to cause a
collapse of the mucus barrier.
Helicobacter pylori; gastric
Excess mucus in the airways leads to obstruction in diseases such as chronic bronchitis, asthma, and cystic fibrosis. Mucins, the highly glycosolated protein components of mucus, are stored in membrane-bound granules housed in the cytoplasm of airway epithelial "goblet" cells until they are secreted into the airway lumen via an exocytotic process. Precise mechanism(s) of mucin secretion, including the specific proteins involved in the process, have yet to be elucidated. Previously, we have shown that the Myristoylated Alanine-Rich C Kinase Substrate (MARCKS) protein regulates mucin secretion by orchestrating translocation of mucin granules from the cytosol to the plasma membrane, where the granules dock, fuse and release their contents into the airway lumen. Associated with MARCKS in this process are chaperone (Heat Shock Protein 70 [HSP70], Cysteine string protein [CSP]) and cytoskeletal (actin, myosin) proteins. However, additional granule-associated proteins that may be involved in secretion have not yet been elucidated.
Here, we isolated mucin granules and granule membranes from primary cultures of well differentiated human bronchial epithelial cells utilizing a novel technique of immuno-isolation, based on the presence of the calcium activated chloride channel hCLCA1 (the human ortholog of murine Gob-5) on the granule membranes, and verified via Western blotting and co-immunoprecipitation that MARCKS, HSP70, CSP and hCLCA1 were present on the granule membranes and associated with each other. We then subjected the isolated granules/membranes to liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to identify other granule associated proteins.
A number of additional cytoskeletal (e.g. Myosin Vc) and regulatory proteins (e.g. Protein phosphatase 4) associated with the granules and could play a role in secretion were discovered. This is the first description of the airway goblet cell "granulome."
Mucociliary clearance is a critical innate defense system responsible for clearing up invading pathogens including bacteria and virus. Although the right amount of mucus is good, excessive mucus causes airway obstruction and tends to precipitate disease symptoms. Rhinovirus (RV) is a common cold virus that causes asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbation. Mucus overproduction has been linked to the pathogenesis of RV-induced diseases and disease exacerbations. However, the molecular mechanism is not clear. In this study, using one of the major airway mucin-MUC5AC as marker, we found that both major and minor groups of RV induced mucin production in primary human epithelial cells and cell line. RV1A (a minor group of RV) could induce mucous cell metaplasia in vivo. Viral replication was needed for RV-induced mucin expression, and this induction was also dependent on TLR3, suggesting the involvement of double-stranded (ds) RNA signaling. Indeed, dsRNA alone could also induce mucin expression. TLR3-mediated mucin induction was negatively regulated by MyD88, and only partially dependent on TRIF, which suggests a departure from well-documented TLR3 signaling paradigm that mediates inflammatory and other innate defense gene inductions. In addition, TLR3 signaling activated epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) through inductions of the expression of EGFR ligands (transforming growth factor-α and amphiregulin), which in turn activated EGFR-ERK signaling and mucin expression through an autocrine/paracrine loop. This novel coupling of antiviral defense machinery (i.e., TLR3) and major epithelial proliferation/repair pathway (i.e., EGFR) might play an important role in viral-induced airway remodeling and airway disease exacerbation.
mucin; airway epithelium; TLR3; rhinovirus
A major characteristic of asthmatic airways is an increase in mucin (the glycoprotein component of mucus) producing and secreting cells, which leads to increased mucin release that further clogs constricted airways and contributes markedly to airway obstruction and, in the most severe cases, to status asthmaticus. Asthmatic airways show both a hyperplasia and metaplasia of goblet cells, mucin-producing cells in the epithelium; hyperplasia refers to enhanced numbers of goblet cells in larger airways, while metaplasia refers to the appearance of these cells in smaller airways where they normally are not seen. With the number of mucin-producing and secreting cells increased, there is a coincident hypersecretion of mucin which characterizes asthma. On a cellular level, a major regulator of airway mucin secretion in both in vitro and in vivo studies has been shown to be MARCKS (Myristoylated Alanine-Rich C Kinase substrate) protein, a ubiquitous substrate of protein kinase C (PKC). In this review, properties of MARCKS and how the protein may regulate mucin secretion at a cellular level will be discussed. In addition, the roles of MARCKS in airway inflammation related to both influx of inflammatory cells into the lung and release of granules containing inflammatory mediators by these cells will be explored.
Rationale: Overproduction of mucus is a contributory factor in the progression of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The polymeric mucins are major macromolecules in the secretion. Therefore, we hypothesized that the polymeric mucin composition or properties may be different in the sputum from individuals with COPD and smokers without airflow obstruction.
Objectives: To determine the major polymeric mucins in COPD sputum and whether these are different in the sputum from individuals with COPD compared with that from smokers without airflow obstruction.
Methods: The polymeric mucin composition of sputum from patients with COPD and smokers without airflow obstruction was analyzed by Western blotting analysis. The tissue localization of the mucins was determined by immunohistochemistry, and their size distribution was analyzed by rate–zonal centrifugation.
Measurements and Main Results: MUC5AC and MUC5B were the major mucins. MUC5AC was the predominant mucin in the smoker group, whereas MUC5B was more abundant from the patients with COPD, with a significant difference in the ratio of MUC5B to MUC5AC (P = 0.004); this ratio was correlated with FEV1 in the COPD group (r = 0.63; P = 0.01). The lower-charged glycosylated form of MUC5B was more predominant in COPD (P = 0.012). No significant associations were observed with respect to sex, age, or pack-year history. In both groups, MUC5AC was produced by surface epithelial cells and MUC5B by submucosal gland cells. Finally, there was a shift toward smaller mucins in the COPD group.
Conclusions: Our data indicate that there are differences in mucin amounts and properties between smokers with and without COPD. Further studies are needed to examine how this may impact disease progression.
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; mucus; mucin; pathophysiology
Mucus hypersecretion contributes to morbidity and mortality in many obstructive lung diseases. Gel-forming mucins are the chief glycoprotein components of airway mucus, and elevated expression of these during mucous metaplasia precedes the hypersecretory phenotype. Five orthologous genes (MUC2, MUC5AC, MUC5B, MUC6, and MUC19) encode the mammalian gel-forming mucin family, and several have been implicated in asthma, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease pathologies. However, in the absence of a comprehensive analysis, their relative contributions remain unclear. Here, we assess the expression of the entire gel-forming mucin gene family in allergic mouse airways and show that Muc5ac is the predominant gel-forming mucin induced. We previously showed that the induction of mucous metaplasia in ovalbumin-sensitized and -challenged mouse lungs occurs within bronchial Clara cells. The temporal induction and localization of Muc5ac transcripts correlate with the induced expression and localization of mucin glycoproteins in bronchial airways. To better understand the tight regulation of Muc5ac expression, we analyzed all available 5′-flanking sequences of mammalian MUC5AC orthologs and identified evolutionarily conserved regions within domains proximal to the mRNA coding region. Analysis of luciferase reporter gene activity in a mouse transformed Clara cell line demonstrates that this region possesses strong promoter activity and harbors multiple conserved transcription factor–binding motifs. In particular, SMAD4 and HIF-1α bind to the promoter, and mutation of their recognition motifs abolishes promoter function. In conclusion, Muc5ac expression is the central event in antigen-induced mucous metaplasia, and phylogenetically conserved 5′ noncoding domains control its regulation.
mucin; metaplasia; airway; lung; epithelium
The polymeric mucin component of the intestinal mucus barrier changes during nematode infection to provide not only physical protection but also to directly affect pathogenic nematodes and aid expulsion. Despite this, the direct interaction of the nematodes with the mucins and the mucus barrier has not previously been addressed. We used the well-established Trichuris muris nematode model to investigate the effect on mucins of the complex mixture of immunogenic proteins secreted by the nematode called excretory/secretory products (ESPs). Different regimes of T. muris infection were used to simulate chronic (low dose) or acute (high dose) infection. Mucus/mucins isolated from mice and from the human intestinal cell line, LS174T, were treated with ESPs. We demonstrate that serine protease(s) secreted by the nematode have the ability to change the properties of the mucus barrier, making it more porous by degrading the mucin component of the mucus gel. Specifically, the serine protease(s) acted on the N-terminal polymerising domain of the major intestinal mucin Muc2, resulting in depolymerisation of Muc2 polymers. Importantly, the respiratory/gastric mucin Muc5ac, which is induced in the intestine and is critical for worm expulsion, was protected from the depolymerising effect exerted by ESPs. Furthermore, serine protease inhibitors (Serpins) which may protect the mucins, in particular Muc2, from depolymerisation, were highly expressed in mice resistant to chronic infection. Thus, we demonstrate that nematodes secrete serine protease(s) to degrade mucins within the mucus barrier, which may modify the niche of the parasite to prevent clearance from the host or facilitate efficient mating and egg laying from the posterior end of the parasite that is in intimate contact with the mucus barrier. However, during a TH2-mediated worm expulsion response, serpins, Muc5ac and increased levels of Muc2 protect the barrier from degradation by the nematode secreted protease(s).
Gastrointestinal parasitic worm infections cause significant morbidity, affecting up to a third of the world's populationand their domestic pets and livestock. Mucus, the gel-like material that blankets the surface of the intestine, forms a protective barrier that is an important part of our innate immune system. The whipworm Trichuris is closely associated with the intestinal mucus barrier. The major structural component of this barrier, large glycoproteins known as mucins play a significant role in the expulsion of these worms in a mouse model. Using mice that get longterm chronic infections and others able to expel the worms from the intestine, we uncover a novel role for products secreted by the worms. Enzymes secreted by whipworms can disrupt the mucin network that gives mucus its viscous properties. Moreover, we unravel that worm products are unable to degrade forms of mucins present in the mucus barrier during worm expulsion, suggesting that these enzymes may be released by the worm as part of its regime to improve its niche and survival in the host. However, the host is capable of producing mucins and other protective molecules that protect the mucus barrier from degradation and are detrimental to the viability of the worm.
Multi-functionalized nanoparticles (NPs) have been extensively investigated for their potential in household and commercial products, and biomedical applications. Previous reports have confirmed the cellular nanotoxicity and adverse inflammatory effects on pulmonary systems induced by NPs. However, possible health hazards resulting from mucus rheological disturbances induced by NPs are underexplored. Accumulation of viscous, poorly dispersed, and less transportable mucus leading to improper mucus rheology and dysfunctional mucociliary clearance are typically found to associate with many respiratory diseases such as asthma, cystic fibrosis (CF), and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Whether functionalized NPs can alter mucus rheology and its operational mechanisms have not been resolved. Herein, we report that positively charged functionalized NPs can hinder mucin gel hydration and effectively induce mucin aggregation. The positively charged NPs can significantly reduce the rate of mucin matrix swelling by a maximum of 7.5 folds. These NPs significantly increase the size of aggregated mucin by approximately 30 times within 24 hrs. EGTA chelation of indigenous mucin crosslinkers (Ca2+ ions) was unable to effectively disperse NP-induced aggregated mucins. Our results have demonstrated that positively charged functionalized NPs can impede mucin gel swelling by crosslinking the matrix. This report also highlights the unexpected health risk of NP-induced change in mucus rheological properties resulting in possible mucociliary transport impairment on epithelial mucosa and related health problems. In addition, our data can serve as a prospective guideline for designing nanocarriers for airway drug delivery applications.
Background: Mucus plugging of the airways is invariably seen in cases of fatal asthma, mucus production is associated with asthma attacks, and the area of submucosal glands is increased in asthma. Mediators secreted from mast cells and neutrophils can stimulate mucous gland secretion. A study was undertaken to count the mast cells and neutrophils in submucosal glands and to relate cell numbers to the presence of mucus in the airway lumen.
Methods: Cartilaginous airways obtained at necropsy from cases of fatal asthma (n=8), non-fatal asthma (n=8), and control cases (n=8) were examined. Contiguous transverse sections were stained for mast cell tryptase and neutrophil elastase, and with Periodic Acid Schiff solution to identify mucus. Mucous gland area, lumen area, and the percentage of the relaxed lumen area occupied by mucus (mucus occupying ratio, MOR) were measured. Mast cells (intact and degranulated) and neutrophils per area of submucosal gland were calculated.
Results: Compared with controls, the cases of fatal asthma had increased mucous gland area, MOR, percentage of degranulated mast cells, and numbers of neutrophils in the submucosal glands (p<0.05). In cases of non-fatal asthma the MOR and the numbers of mast cells and neutrophils in the submucosal glands were increased (p<0.05). When all cases were pooled together, the MOR correlated with the total number of mast cells (r=0.55, p=0.005) and with the number of degranulated mast cells in the submucosal glands (r=0.51, p=0.013), but not with the number of neutrophils (r=0.21, p=0.121).
Conclusion: These results show that mucous gland area, MOR, and mucous gland inflammation are increased in asthma and that degranulation of mast cells may contribute to secretion of mucus into the lumen in cases of fatal asthma.
Mucins are gel-forming proteins that are responsible for the characteristic viscoelastic properties of mucus. Mucin overproduction is a hallmark of asthma, but the cellular requirements for airway mucin production are poorly understood. The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) protein anterior gradient homolog 2 (AGR2) is required for production of the intestinal mucin MUC2, but its role in the production of the airway mucins MUC5AC and MUC5B is not established. Microarray data were analyzed to examine the relationship between AGR2 and MUC5AC expression in asthma. Immunofluorescence was used to localize AGR2 in airway cells. Coimmunoprecipitation was used to identify AGR2-immature MUC5AC complexes. Agr2−/− mice were used to determine the role of AGR2 in allergic airway disease. AGR2 localized to the ER of MUC5AC- and MUC5B-producing airway cells and formed a complex with immature MUC5AC. AGR2 expression increased together with MUC5AC expression in airway epithelium from “Th2-high” asthmatics. Allergen-challenged Agr2−/− mice had greater than 50% reductions in MUC5AC and MUC5B proteins compared with allergen-challenged wild-type mice. Impaired mucin production in Agr2−/− mice was accompanied by an increase in the proportion of mucins contained within the ER and by evidence of ER stress in airway epithelium. This study shows that AGR2 increases with mucin overproduction in individuals with asthma and in mouse models of allergic airway disease. AGR2 interacts with immature mucin in the ER and loss of AGR2 impairs allergen-induced MUC5AC and MUC5B overproduction.
asthma; airway epithelium; mucus; endoplasmic reticulum stress; protein disulfide isomerase
Mucins—large, highly glycosylated proteins—are important for the luminal protection of the gastrointestinal tract. Enterocytes have their apical surface covered by transmembrane mucins and goblet cells produce the secreted gel-forming mucins that form mucus. The small intestine has a single unattached mucus layer. In cystic fibrosis, this layer becomes attached, accounting for the intestinal manifestations of this disease. The stomach and colon have two layers of mucus; the inner layer is attached and the outer layer is less dense and unattached. In the colon, the outer mucus layer is the habitat for commensal bacteria. The inner mucus layer is impervious to bacteria and is renewed every hour by surface goblet cells. The crypt goblet cells have the ability to restitute the mucus layer by secretion, for example after an ischaemic challenge. Proteases of certain parasites and some bacteria can cleave mucins and dissolve the mucus as part of their pathogenicity. The inner mucus layer can, however, also become penetrable to bacteria by several other mechanisms, including aberrations in the immune system. When bacteria reach the epithelial surface, the immune system is activated and inflammation is triggered. This mechanism might occur in some types of ulcerative colitis.
Human tracheobronchial epithelial cells grown in air-liquid interface culture have emerged as a powerful tool for the study of airway biology. In this study, we have investigated whether this culture system produces “mucus” with a protein composition similar to that of in vivo, induced airway secretions. Previous compositional studies of mucous secretions have greatly underrepresented the contribution of mucins, which are major structural components of normal mucus. To overcome this limitation, we have used a mass spectrometry-based approach centered on prior separation of the mucins from the majority of the other proteins. Using this approach, we have compared the protein composition of apical secretions (AS) from well-differentiated primary human tracheobronchial cells grown at air-liquid interface and human tracheobronchial normal induced sputum (IS). A total of 186 proteins were identified, 134 from AS and 136 from IS; 84 proteins were common to both secretions, with host defense proteins being predominant. The epithelial mucins MUC1, MUC4, and MUC16 and the gel-forming mucins MUC5B and MUC5AC were identified in both secretions. Refractometry showed that the gel-forming mucins were the major contributors by mass to both secretions. When the composition of the IS was corrected for proteins that were most likely derived from saliva, serum, and migratory cells, there was considerable similarity between the two secretions, in particular, in the category of host defense proteins, which includes the mucins. This shows that the primary cell culture system is an important model for study of aspects of innate defense of the upper airways related specifically to mucus consisting solely of airway cell products.
mucus; mucin; innate immunity; proteomics; human tracheobronchial epithelial cell culture
A gelatinous coat, heterogeneous in appearance, was formed over damaged rat gastric mucosa recovering from acute ethanol injury. This coat, in places 1.6 mm thick (median thickness 680 microns), was 10 times thicker than the translucent layer of adherent mucus (median thickness 70 microns) covering the undamaged mucosa. Immunohistochemistry and periodic acid Schiff staining showed this gelatinous coat to be predominantly a fibrin gel with an exterior layer rich in mucus and necrotic cells. The plasma clotting time was significantly decreased in vitro by pig gastric mucus gel and soluble mucus glycoprotein (90% and 13% respectively) suggesting that in vivo the mucus layer remaining after epithelial damage could act as a template for fibrinogen-fibrin conversion. These results show that a fibrin based gelatinous coat, quite distinct from the adherent mucus layer and with considerable protective potential could be formed over the repairing rat gastric mucosa after acute ethanol damage.
Mammalian airways are protected from infection by a thin film of airway surface liquid (ASL) which covers airway epithelial surfaces and acts as a lubricant to keep mucus from adhering to the epithelial surface. Precise regulation of ASL volume is essential for efficient mucus clearance and too great a reduction in ASL volume causes mucus dehydration and mucus stasis which contributes to chronic airway infection. The epithelial Na+ channel (ENaC) is the rate-limiting step that governs Na+ absorption in the airways. Recent in vitro and in vivo data have demonstrated that ENaC is a critical determinant of ASL volume and hence mucus clearance. ENaC must be cleaved by either intracellular furin-type proteases or extracellular serine proteases to be active and conduct Na+, and this process can be inhibited by protease inhibitors. ENaC can be regulated by multiple pathways, and once proteolytically cleaved ENaC may then be inhibited by intracellular second messengers such as cAMP and PIP2. In the airways, however, regulation of ENaC by proteases seems to be the predominant mode of regulation since knockdown of either endogenous serine proteases such as prostasin, or inhibitors of ENaC proteolysis such as SPLUNC1, has large effects on ENaC activity in airway epithelia. In this review, we shall discuss how ENaC is proteolytically cleaved, how this process can regulate ASL volume, and how its failure to operate correctly may contribute to chronic airway disease.
Na+ channel; Cystic fibrosis; Epithelial transport; Fluid absorption; Lung liquid
Airway mucus hypersecretion (AMH) is a key pathophysiological feature of chronic airway inflammatory diseases such as bronchial asthma, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. AMH contributes to the pathogenesis of chronic airway inflammatory diseases, and it is associated with reduced lung function and high rates of hospitalization and mortality. It has been suggested that AMH should be a target in the treatment of chronic airway inflammatory diseases. Recent evidence suggests that a key regulator of airway inflammation, hyperresponsiveness, and remodeling is peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ), a ligand-activated transcription factor that regulates adipocyte differentiation and lipid metabolism. PPARγ is expressed in structural, immune, and inflammatory cells in the lung. PPARγ is involved in mucin production, and PPARγ agonists can inhibit mucin synthesis both in vitro and in vivo. These findings suggest that PPARγ is a novel target in the treatment of AMH and that further work on this transcription factor may lead to new therapies for chronic airway inflammatory diseases.
Secretory epithelial cells of the proximal airways synthesize and secrete gel-forming polymeric mucins. The secreted mucins adsorb water to form mucus that is propelled by neighboring ciliated cells, providing a mobile barrier which removes inhaled particles and pathogens from the lungs. Several features of the intracellular trafficking of mucins make the airway secretory cell an interesting comparator for the cell biology of regulated exocytosis. Polymeric mucins are exceedingly large molecules (up to 3 × 106 Da per monomer) whose folding and initial polymerization in the ER requires the protein disulfide isomerase Agr2. In the Golgi, mucins further polymerize to form chains and possibly branched networks comprising more than 20 monomers. The large size of mucin polymers imposes constraints on their packaging into transport vesicles along the secretory pathway. Sugar side chains account for >70% of the mass of mucins, and their attachment to the protein core by O-glycosylation occurs in the Golgi. Mature polymeric mucins are stored in large secretory granules ∼1 μm in diameter. These are translocated to the apical membrane to be positioned for exocytosis by cooperative interactions among myristoylated alanine-rich C kinase substrate, cysteine string protein, heat shock protein 70, and the cytoskeleton. Mucin granules undergo exocytic fusion with the plasma membrane at a low basal rate and a high stimulated rate. Both rates are mediated by a regulated exocytic mechanism as indicated by phenotypes in both basal and stimulated secretion in mice lacking Munc13-2, a sensor of the second messengers calcium and diacylglycerol (DAG). Basal secretion is induced by low levels of activation of P2Y2 purinergic and A3 adenosine receptors by extracellular ATP released in paracrine fashion and its metabolite adenosine. Stimulated secretion is induced by high levels of the same ligands, and possibly by inflammatory mediators as well. Activated receptors are coupled to phospholipase C by Gq, resulting in the generation of DAG and of IP3 that releases calcium from apical ER. Stimulated secretion requires activation of the low affinity calcium sensor Synaptotagmin-2, while a corresponding high affinity calcium sensor in basal secretion is not known. The core exocytic machinery is comprised of the SNARE proteins VAMP8, SNAP23, and an unknown Syntaxin protein, together with the scaffolding protein Munc18b. Common and distinct features of this exocytic system in comparison to neuroendocrine cells and neurons are highlighted.
secretion; exocytosis; mucin; mucus; MARCKS; Munc18; Munc13; synaptotagmin