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Membrane mucins of the intestine at a glance

Journal article
Authors Thaher Pelaseyed
Gunnar C. Hansson
Published in Journal of Cell Science
Volume 133
Issue 5
Pages 7
ISSN 0021-9533
Publication year 2020
Published at Institute of Biomedicine, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Pages 7
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1242/jcs.240929
Keywords Barrier, Glycocalyx, Intestine, Microvilli, Mucus, Mucin, growth-factor receptor, cell-surface mucin, o-glycosylation, transmembrane mucins, DNA methylation, cystic-fibrosis, gastric-mucosa, mucus layers, c-terminus, sea domain, Cell Biology
Subject categories Cell biology

Abstract

Membrane mucins cover most mucosal surfaces throughout the human body. The intestine harbors complex population of microorganisms (the microbiota) and numerous exogenous molecules that can harm the epithelium. In the colon, where the microbial burden is high, a mucus barrier forms the first line of defense by keeping bacteria away from the epithelial cells. In the small intestine where the mucus layer is less organized, microbes are kept at bay by peristalsis and antimicrobial peptides. Additionally, a dense glycocalyx consisting of extended and heavily glycosylated membrane mucins covers the surface of enterocytes. Whereas many aspects of mucosal barriers are being discovered, the function of membrane mucins remains a largely overlooked topic, mainly because we lack the necessary reagents and experimental animal models to investigate these large glycoproteins. In this Cell Science at a Glance article and accompanying poster, we highlight central concepts of membrane mucin biology and the role of membrane mucins as integral components of intestinal mucosal barriers. We also present the current consensus concerning the role of membrane mucins in host-microbe interactions. Moreover, we discuss how regulatory circuits that govern membrane mucins in the healthy gut display strong overlap with pathways that are perturbed during chronic inflammation. Finally, we review how dysregulation of intestinal membrane mucins may contribute to human diseases, such as inflammation and cancer.

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