Organization and regulatory aspects of the human intestinal mucin gene (MUC2) locus

Anna Velcich, Lis Palumbo, Licia Selleri, Glen Evans, Leonard Augenlicht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


The human MUC2 gene maps to chromosome 11p15, where three additional mucin genes have been located, and encodes the most abundant gastrointestinal mucin normally expressed in the intestinal goblet cell lineage. However, in pathological conditions, including colorectal cancer, MUC2 can be abnormally expressed. Therefore, it is of considerable interest to understand the regulation of the MUC2 gene and how the mechanism is altered in colon cancer. Toward this goal, we have isolated a group of overlapping clones (contig) spanning 85 kilobases harboring the entire MUC2 locus, including sequences located upstream of the gene. Detection of two DNase I-hypersensitive sites in the 5' region of the MUC2 gene suggests the presence of DNA regulatory elements. To better characterize this region, we have sequenced 12 kilobases of the upstream region and analyzed it for functional activity by cloning portions of it into a luciferase reporter vector and assaying for promoter/enhancer activity using a transient transfection assay. A fragment from the AUG translational initiation codon +1 to -848 confers maximal transcriptional activity in several intestinal cell lines. Elements located further upstream exert a negative effect on the expression of the reporter gene when tested in conjunction with homologous or heterologous promoters. The same pattern of expression is observed when the MUC2/luciferase constructs are transfected into HeLa cells, which do not express the endogenous MUC2 gene. However, the level of activity in HeLa cells is at least an order of magnitude higher, suggesting that additional sequences singularly or in combination are responsible for the tissue- and cell lineage-specific expression of MUC2. Finally, we have identified an additional mucin-like gene (MUCX), located upstream of MUC2. We show that this MUCX gene, that is transcribed in opposite orientation to that of MUC2, is expressed with a pattern distinct from that of MUC2, yet similar to that of MUC5B and MUC6, two additional mucin genes located at chromosome 11p15. Recent information on the order of the mucin genes at chromosome 11p15 suggests that MUCX may be MUC6, one of the already identified mucin genes, or a novel one, yet to be fully characterized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7968-7976
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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