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Assembly, Release, and Transport of Airway Mucins in Pigs and Humans

Journal article
Authors Anna Ermund
Sergio Trillo-Muyo
Gunnar C. Hansson
Published in Annals of the American Thoracic Society
Volume 15
Pages S159-S163
ISSN 1546-3222
Publication year 2018
Published at Institute of Biomedicine
Pages S159-S163
Language en
Keywords mucins, mucus, mucociliary clearance, secretory vesicles, functional cftr channel, cystic-fibrosis, mucociliary transport, muc2, mucin, clearance, trachea, cilia, model, Respiratory System, ates of america, v111, p2355, ates of america, v114, p6842
Subject categories Infectious Medicine


The respiratory system is protected from inhaled particles and microbes by the mucociliary system. This system differs between animal species, where pigs and humans have numerous submucosal glands. The polymer-forming mucin, MUC5B, is packed in a highly organized way in granules of the mucus-secreting cells in the glands. Upon secretion, the packed MUC5B is flushed out by a chloride-and bicarbonate-rich fluid from the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator-expressing serosal cells located at the most distal part of the gland. The bicarbonate raises the pH and removes calcium from the N terminus of MUC5B, allowing the mucin to be pulled out into a linear polymer. Thousands of such polymers gather in bundles in the submucosal gland duct, and these bundles appear at the opening of the glands. They are moved by the beating cilia, and sweep over the airway surface and are patchily coated with the MUC5AC mucin from the surface goblet cells. The movement of these bundles is controlled by the MUC5AC mucin attachment/detachment to the goblet cells. Thus, higher animals with submucosal glands and large diameters of the proximal airways are efficiently cleaned by the thick mucus bundles sweeping the airway surface and moving particles and bacteria toward the larynx.

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