Gut 43:519-524 doi:10.1136/gut.43.4.519
  • Molecular gastroenterology

Mucin gene expression in human embryonic and fetal intestine


Background—The intestinal epithelium is covered by a continuous layer of mucus which is secreted by well differentiated epithelial cells. Disregulation of the expression of mucins has been reported to have possible implications in the neoplastic process which affects intestinal mucosae. It is well known that preneoplastic and neoplastic tissues can express fetal phenotypic characteristics.

Aims—To assess whether the expression of mucin genes in the intestinal tract is linked to the stage of cellular differentiation and tissue development, by studying the expression of six mucin genes in human fetal small intestine and colon, and also adult tissues.

Methods—In situ hybridisation was used to study mRNA expression of MUC2, MUC3, MUC4, MUC5B, MUC5AC, and MUC6 in 32 human embryos and fetuses (6.5–27 weeks gestation). Normal adult mucosae were used as controls.

Results—Three mucin genes, MUC2, MUC4, and MUC5AC, were differently expressed in fetal intestine compared with expression in normal adults.

Conclusion—These differences in mucin gene expression suggest a possible regulatory role for these products in intestinal epithelial cell differentiation.