Characterization of mucins in human middle ear and Eustachian tube

Jizhen Lin, Vladimir Tsuprun, Hirokazu Kawano, Michael M. Paparella, Zhiqiang Zhang, Ruth Anway, Samuel B. Ho

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86 Scopus citations


Mucins are important glycoproteins in the mucociliary transport system of the middle ear and Eustachian tube. Little is known about mucin expression within this system under physiological and pathological conditions. This study demonstrated the expression of MUC5B, MUC5AC, MUC4, and MUC1 in the human Eustachian tube, whereas only MUC5B mucin expression was demonstrated in noninflamed middle ears. MUC5B and MUC4 mucin genes were upregulated 4.2- and 6-fold, respectively, in middle ears with chronic otitis media (COM) or mucoid otitis media (MOM). This upregulation of mucin genes was accompanied by an increase of MUC5B- and MUC4-producing cells in the middle ear mucosa. Electron microscopy of the secretions from COM and MOM showed the presence of chainlike polymeric mucin. These data indicate that the epithelium of the middle ear and Eustachian tube expresses distinct mucin profiles and that MUC5B and MUC4 mucins are highly produced and secreted in the diseased middle ear. These mucins may form thick mucous effusion in the middle ear cavity and compromise the function of the middle ear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L1157-L1167
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number6 24-6
StatePublished - 2001


  • Epithelial pathology
  • Hearing impairment
  • Mucin biology
  • Otitis media


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