Mucins were extracted from the epithelial surface and the submucosal tissue of human trachea in order to enrich glycoproteins from the goblet cells and the submucosal glands respectively. The macromolecules were purified using density-gradient centrifugation, and the presence of the MUC5AC mucin was investigated using an antiserum raised against a synthetic peptide based on the sequence of the MUC5AC apoprotein. Mucins from the surface epithelium showed a higher reactivity with the antiserum relative to carbohydrate than those from the submucosa, and ion-exchange HPLC of reduced subunits revealed the presence of two distinct mucin populations in the samples. The predominant species from the surface epithelium was more acidic than the major population from the submucosa and showed a strong reactivity with the anti-MUC5AC antiserum. In contrast, the major portion of the submucosal mucins were less acidic and showed no MUC5AC reactivity, although a more acidic population did react with the antibody. Rate-zonal centrifugation showed that the MUC5AC mucin from the surface epithelium is smaller than the major submucosal mucin, and that both are composed of subunits. Immunolocalization confirmed that the MUC5AC mucin from human trachea originates from the goblet cells and that this glycoprotein is not a major product of the submucosal glands.

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