Mucin synthesis and secretion in relation to spontaneous differentiation of colon cancer cells in vitro

Yaron Niv, James C. Byrd, Samuel B. Ho, Rajvir Dahiya, Young S. Kim

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61 Scopus citations


The synthesis and secretion of mucin‐like high‐molecular glycoprotein was studied in 2 human colon cancer cell lines that spontaneously differentiate in culture (Caco‐2 and T84) and in 2 cell lines that do not spontaneously differentiate (LS174T and HT29). Mucin, quantitated by 3H‐glucosamine labelling and chromatography on Sepharose CL‐4B was found to be produced by all 4 cell lines. The mucinous nature of the labelled high‐molecular glycoprotein was verified by enzymatic degradation treatments (heparinase, hyaluronidase, chondroitinase ABC, and N‐glycanase), alkaline‐borohydride treatment, inhibition of labelling by the glycosylation inhibitor benzyl‐α‐GaINAc, and by CsCl‐density‐gradient centrifugation. In all 4 cell lines, an inverse correlation of mucin synthesis with cell density was demonstrated. In Caco‐2 cells, the spontaneous post‐confluent enterocytic differentiation with increased brush‐border enzyme expression was associated with a decrease in mucin synthesis and in the activities of polypeptidyl GaINAc transferase and β 1,3‐galactosyltransferase activity. Using cDNA probes for 2 distinct human intestinal mucins (MUC2 and MUC3), we found that all 4 colon cancer cell lines expressed mucin message, but the types of mucin mRNA expressed differed. These data indicate that mucin‐like glycoproteins can be synthesized by cell lines derived from non‐mucinous colon cancer, whether or not they undergo spontaneous differentiation in culture. These cell lines may serve as in vitro models for studying apomucin heterogeneity and control of mucin gene expression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-152
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 1992
Externally publishedYes


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