Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark (FBL) is published by IMR Press from Volume 26 Issue 5 (2021). Previous articles were published by another publisher on a subscription basis, and they are hosted by IMR Press on imrpress.com as a courtesy and upon agreement with Frontiers in Bioscience.
Academic Editor: Surinder Batra
Mucin production and secretion by specialized epithelial cells is a common mechanism used by mammals to protect the underlying mucosae against various injuries (pollutants, pathogens, pH). The expression of mucin genes is cell- and tissue-specific but is submitted to variations during cell differentiation, inflammatory process, and is altered during carcinogenesis. The molecular mechanisms responsible for the control of mucin transcription and expression are beginning to be understood as mucin gene promoters and regulatory regions are characterized. The four gel-forming mucin genes, MUC2-MUC5AC-MUC5B-MUC6, are clustered on the p15 arm of chromosome 11. Common regulatory mechanisms (PKA, PKC, PKG and Ca2+ signaling, Sp1/Sp3) may account for the capability of mucous-secreting cells to express several mucin genes simultaneously. In response to an insult or during carcinogenesis, the normal pattern of expression is altered and results from specific answers of the cell by activating different intracellular signaling pathways. 11p15 mucin genes are regulated at the transcriptional level by pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1beta, IL-6, TNF-alpha), pleiotropic cytokines (IL-4, IL-13, IL-9), bacterial exoproduct (LPS), growth factors (EGF, TGF-alpha), lipid mediator (PAF), retinoids and hormones. To date, the only downstream cascade known to activate mucin gene transcription is the Src/Ras/MAPK/pp90rsk cascade, which leads to the activation of the transcription factor NF-kappaB. Mucin gene transcription is also regulated by ATF-1, CREB and RAR-alpha transcription factors. Finally, repression of mucin transcription in cancer cells is under the control of the epigenetic mechanism of methylation. As transcriptional regulation of mucin genes begins to be unraveled, it becomes clear that many signaling pathways are involved. Our understanding of mucin gene transcriptional regulation, which awaits more data (identification of the signaling cascades and active cis-elements within promoters and introns), will most certainly lead to the use of mucin genes as molecular markers in cancer and molecular tools in human gene therapy, and to the synthesis of new therapeutic agents in inflammatory diseases of the epithelium.