Human MUC1 Mucin: A Potent Glandular Morphogen
Human MUC1 mucin is a high-molecular-weight transmembrane glycoprotein, which is apically expressed in the majority of glandular epithelia. During embryonic development, changes in the pattern of MUC1 mucin expression coincide with the onset of glandular differentiation. This mucin is also frequently overexpressed and aberrantly glycosylated in carcinomas. To investigate the potential role of MUC1 mucin in morphogenesis, a full length MUC1 cDNA was transfected into murine mammary adenocarcinoma (410.4) and Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells. This generated four clonal cell lines. Western blotting, FACS analysis, and immunohistochemistry confirmed expression of MUC1. All four MUC1-expressing clones demonstrated altered morphogenesis when cultured in three-dimensional type I collagen gels. While parental and vector control 410.4 cells formed compact spherical structures, the MUC1-expressing clones formed complex branching structures. Similarly, while parental and vector control MDCK cells formed small circumscribed colonies with a central lumen, the MUC1-expressing clones formed elongated tubules. MUC1 expression was also associated with reduced cellular cohesion and enhanced migration on type I collagen-coated surfaces for all except one of the clones, which expressed only low levels of MUC1 on the cell surface. These results show that MUC1 expression stimulates morphogenetic changes in two distinct epithelial cell lines. Taken together with previous observations on MUC1 expression in embryonic development and carcinomas, this finding suggests that MUC1 may induce changes in tissue architecture in both normal development and cancer.