1. Mucin histochemistry is markedly altered in the stomach in intestinal-type adenocarcinoma. To increase understanding of these changes we have examined the content and distribution of carbohydrate in mucus glycopolypeptides isolated from non-malignant antrum, and from the uninvolved gastric mucosa and tumour site of patients with this disease.
2. The content of carbohydrate declined by 12.6% (P = 0.02) in mucus glycopolypeptides from uninvolved gastric mucosa when compared with those from non-malignant antrum, and by a further 25.4% (P < 0.001) in mucus glycopolypeptides from the tumour site. The first of these changes was accompanied by a significant decrease in the number of carbohydrate chains/1000 amino acid residues, and a significant increase in the number of monosaccharide units in each carbohydrate chain. The second of these changes was accompanied by significant decreases in both the number of carbohydrate chains/1000 amino acid residues, and in the number of monosaccharide units in each carbohydrate chain.
3. The number of sulphated monosaccharide units/100 carbohydrate chains increased from a mean of 7.2 in mucus glycopolypeptides from non-malignant antrum to a mean of 27.2 (P < 0.001) in preparations from uninvolved gastric mucosa and 22.7 (P < 0.001) in preparations from the tumour site.
4. Evidence is presented that these structural changes to mucus glycopolypeptides from the malignant stomach are due to an abnormal mucin biosynthesis by metaplastic goblet cells and/or immature gastric-type mucous cells within the uninvolved mucosa, and immature mucous cells at the tumour site.