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1.  Cystic fibrosis airway secretions exhibit mucin hyperconcentration and increased osmotic pressure 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2014;124(7):3047-3060.
The pathogenesis of mucoinfective lung disease in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients likely involves poor mucus clearance. A recent model of mucus clearance predicts that mucus flow depends on the relative mucin concentration of the mucus layer compared with that of the periciliary layer; however, mucin concentrations have been difficult to measure in CF secretions. Here, we have shown that the concentration of mucin in CF sputum is low when measured by immunologically based techniques, and mass spectrometric analyses of CF mucins revealed mucin cleavage at antibody recognition sites. Using physical size exclusion chromatography/differential refractometry (SEC/dRI) techniques, we determined that mucin concentrations in CF secretions were higher than those in normal secretions. Measurements of partial osmotic pressures revealed that the partial osmotic pressure of CF sputum and the retained mucus in excised CF lungs were substantially greater than the partial osmotic pressure of normal secretions. Our data reveal that mucin concentration cannot be accurately measured immunologically in proteolytically active CF secretions; mucins are hyperconcentrated in CF secretions; and CF secretion osmotic pressures predict mucus layer–dependent osmotic compression of the periciliary liquid layer in CF lungs. Consequently, mucin hypersecretion likely produces mucus stasis, which contributes to key infectious and inflammatory components of CF lung disease.
PMCID: PMC4072023  PMID: 24892808
2.  Molecular Organization of the Mucins and Glycocalyx Underlying Mucus Transport Over Mucosal Surfaces of the Airways 
Mucosal immunology  2012;6(2):379-392.
Mucus, with its burden of inspired particulates, and pathogens, is cleared from mucosal surfaces of the airways by cilia beating within the periciliary layer (PCL). The PCL is held to be ‘watery’ and free of mucus by thixotropic-like forces arising from beating cilia. With radii of gyration ~250 nm, however, polymeric mucins should reptate readily into the PCL, so we assessed the glycocalyx for barrier functions. The PCL stained negative for MUC5AC and MUC5B, but it was positive for keratan sulfate, a glycosaminoglycan commonly associated with glycoconjugates. Shotgun proteomics showed keratan sulfate-rich fractions from mucus containing abundant tethered mucins, MUC1, MUC4, and MUC16, but no proteoglycans. Immuno-histology by light and electron microscopy localized MUC1 to microvilli, MUC4 and MUC20 to cilia, and MUC16 to goblet cells. Electron and atomic force microscopy revealed molecular lengths of 190–1,500 nm for tethered mucins, and a finely textured glycocalyx matrix filling interciliary spaces. Adenoviral particles were excluded from glycocalyx of the microvilli, while the smaller AAV penetrated, but were trapped within. Hence, tethered mucins organized as a space-filling glycocalyx function as a selective barrier for the PCL, broadening their role in innate lung defense and offering new molecular targets for conventional and gene therapies.
PMCID: PMC3637662  PMID: 22929560
lung; airways epithelium; mucosal innate immunity; mucus; mucin; mucociliary clearance
3.  Periciliary Brush Promotes the Lung Health by Separating the Mucus Layer from Airway Epithelia 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2012;337(6097):937-941.
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.
PMCID: PMC3633213  PMID: 22923574
4.  Mapping the Protein Domain Structures of the Respiratory Mucins: a mucin proteome coverage study 
Journal of proteome research  2012;11(8):4013-4023.
Mucin genes encode a family of the largest expressed proteins in the human genome. The proteins are highly substituted with O-linked oligosaccharides which greatly restrict access to the peptide backbones. The genomic organization of the N-terminal, O-glycosylated, and C-terminal regions of most of the mucins has been established and is available in the sequence databases. However, much less is known about the fate of their exposed protein regions after translation and secretion, and, to date, detailed proteomic studies complementary to the genomic studies are rather limited. Using mucins isolated from cultured human airway epithelial cell secretions, trypsin digestion and mass spectrometry, we investigated the proteome coverage of the mucins responsible for the maintenance and protection of the airway epithelia. Excluding the heavily glycosylated mucin domains, up to 85% coverage of the N-terminal region of the gel forming mucins MUC5B and MUC5AC was achieved, and up to 60% of the C-terminal regions were covered, suggesting that more N- and sparsely O-glycosylated regions as well as possible other modifications are available at the C-terminus. All possible peptides from the cysteine-rich regions that interrupt the heavily glycosylated mucin domains were identified. Interestingly, 43 cleavage sites from ten different domains of MUC5B and MUC5AC were identified, which possessed a non-tryptic cleavage site on the N-terminal end of the peptide, indicating potential exposure to proteolytic and/or “spontaneous cleavages”. Some of these non-tryptic cleavages may be important for proper maturation of the molecule, before and/or after secretion. Most of the peptides identified from MUC16 were from the SEA region. Surprisingly, three peptides were clearly identified from its heavily glycosylated regions. Up to 25% coverage of MUC4 was achieved covering seven different domains of the molecule. All peptides from the MUC1 cytoplasmic domain were detected along with the three non-tryptic cleavages in the region. Only one peptide was identified from MUC20 which led us to successful antisera raised against the molecule. Taken together, this report represents our current efforts to dissect the complexities of mucin macromolecules. Identification of regions accessible to proteolysis can help in the design of effective antibodies and points to regions that might be available for mucin-protein interactions and identification of cleavage sites will enable understanding of their pre- and post-secretory processing in normal and disease environments.
PMCID: PMC3412937  PMID: 22663354
Mucins; respiratory; proteomics; coverage; MUC5B; MUC5AC
5.  The NAD+-dependent protein deacetylase activity of SIRT1 is regulated by its oligomeric status 
Scientific Reports  2012;2:640.
SIRT1, a NAD+-dependent protein deacetylase, is an important regulator in cellular stress response and energy metabolism. While the list of SIRT1 substrates is growing, how the activity of SIRT1 is regulated remains unclear. We have previously reported that SIRT1 is activated by phosphorylation at a conserved Thr522 residue in response to environmental stress. Here we demonstrate that phosphorylation of Thr522 activates SIRT1 through modulation of its oligomeric status. We provide evidence that nonphosphorylated SIRT1 protein is aggregation-prone in vitro and in cultured cells. Conversely, phosphorylated SIRT1 protein is largely in the monomeric state and more active. Our findings reveal a novel mechanism for environmental regulation of SIRT1 activity, which may have important implications in understanding the molecular mechanism of stress response, cell survival, and aging.
PMCID: PMC3435561  PMID: 22962634
6.  Tracheobronchial air-liquid interface cell culture: a model for innate mucosal defense of the upper airways? 
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.
PMCID: PMC2636953  PMID: 18931053
mucus; mucin; innate immunity; proteomics; human tracheobronchial epithelial cell culture
7.  Identification of salivary mucin MUC7 binding proteins from Streptococcus gordonii 
BMC Microbiology  2009;9:163.
The salivary mucin MUC7 (previously known as MG2) can adhere to various strains of streptococci that are primary colonizers and predominant microorganisms of the oral cavity. Although there is a growing interest in interaction between oral pathogens and salivary mucins, studies reporting the specific binding sites on the bacteria are rather limited. Identification and characterization of the specific interacting proteins on the bacterial cell surface, termed adhesins, are crucial to further understand host-pathogen interactions.
We demonstrate here, using purified MUC7 to overlay blots of SDS-extracts of Streptococcus gordonii cell surface proteins, 4 MUC7-binding bands, with apparent molecular masses of 62, 78, 84 and 133 kDa from the Streptococcus gordonii strain, PK488. Putative adhesins were identified by in-gel digestion and subsequent nanoLC-tandem mass spectrometry analysis of resultant peptides. The 62 kDa and 84 kDa bands were identified as elongation factor (EF) Tu and EF-G respectively. The 78 kDa band was a hppA gene product; the 74 kDa oligopeptide-binding lipoprotein. The 133 kDa band contained two proteins; alpha enolase and DNA-directed RNA polymerase, beta' subunit. Some of these proteins, for example alpha enolase are expected to be intracellular, however, flow cytometric analysis confirmed its location on the bacterial surface.
Our data demonstrated that S. gordonii expressed a number of putative MUC7 recognizing proteins and these contribute to MUC7 mucin binding of this streptococcal strain.
PMCID: PMC2775355  PMID: 19671172
8.  Chronic Exposure to Beta-Blockers Attenuates Inflammation and Mucin Content in a Murine Asthma Model 
Single-dose administration of beta-adrenoceptor agonists produces bronchodilation and inhibits airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR), and is the standard treatment for the acute relief of asthma. However, chronic repetitive administration of beta-adrenoceptor agonists may increase AHR, airway inflammation, and risk of death. Based upon the paradigm shift that occurred with the use of beta-blockers in congestive heart failure, we previously determined that chronic administration of beta-blockers decreased AHR in a murine model of asthma. To elucidate the mechanisms for the beneficial effects of beta-blockers, we examined the effects of chronic administration of several beta-adrenoceptor ligands in a murine model of allergic asthma. Administration of beta-blockers resulted in a reduction in total cell counts, eosinophils, and the cytokines IL-13, IL-10, IL-5, and TGF-β1 in bronchoalveolar lavage, and attenuated epithelial mucin content and morphologic changes. The differences in mucin content also occurred if the beta-blockers were administered only during the ovalbumin challenge phase, but administration of beta-blockers for 7 days was not as effective as administration for 28 days. These results indicate that in a murine model of asthma, chronic administration of beta-blockers reduces inflammation and mucous metaplasia, cardinal features of asthma that may contribute to airflow obstruction and AHR. Similar to heart failure, our results provide a second disease model in which beta-blockers producing an acutely detrimental effect may provide a therapeutically beneficial effect with chronic administration.
PMCID: PMC2258446  PMID: 18096872
beta-blockers; beta-adrenoceptor; asthma; mucin; airway inflammation

Results 1-8 (8)