Human colonic mucin has been isolated from mucosal scrapings of fresh surgical specimens of normal controls as well as patients with Crohn's colitis and ulcerative colitis. Following sonication and ultracentrifugation, mucin fractions were separated from other soluble colonic glycoproteins by Sepharose 4B chromatography. After nuclease digestion, cesium chloride gradient centrifugation of the excluded material yielded colonic mucin with an average buoyant density of 1.52 g/ml. Subsequent chromatography of the apparently homogeneous colonic mucin on DEAE-cellulose revealed the presence of at least six distinct mucin species (mucin I-VI). Each mucin species was found to have a distinctive hexose, hexosamine, sialic acid, and sulfate content as well as blood group substance activities. Mucin from five patients with Crohn's colitis was found to represent a mixture of at least six discrete species comparable to those isolated from normal colonic specimens. However, in mucin from eight patients with ulcerative colitis there was a marked and selective reduction of one component mucin subclass, designated species IV. Normal mucin and mucin from patients with Crohn's disease contained 48 ± 17 and 42 ± 12 mg of species IV/g, while mucin from patients with ulcerative colitis had 5 ± 3 mg/g solubilized glycoprotein. The selective absence of species IV was found in preparations from both sigmoid (n = 7) and ascending (n = 4) colon and could not be accounted for by an overall decrease in total mucin content. The selective reduction of species IV was also found in mucin isolated from relatively noninflamed colonic mucosa of patients with ulcerative colitis. The carbohydrate composition and blood group activities of the remaining five mucin species were similar to their normal counterparts. Based on the results to date, there appears to be an underlying selective decrease of one colonic mucin subclass in ulcerative colitis.
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