HT29-18N2 (N2) cells, a subclone of the HT29 human colon carcinoma cell line, are shown in this report to be a model system for the study of human goblet cell differentiation and mucin secretion. Grown in the absence of glucose, these cells formed homogeneous epithelial monolayers of columnar cells with typical goblet cell morphology. Differentiation occurred on uncoated glass; laminin, fibronectin, or collagen type I or IV did not enhance differentiation. HT29-18N2 cells grown on uncoated or matrix-coated permeable filters formed differentiated monolayers, but mucin granules within some of these cells polarized along intraepithelial lumens. Polyclonal antibodies raised against purified human colonic mucin, and also a monoclonal antibody against a protease-sensitive epitope of human colonic mucin, stained secretory granules of all differentiated goblet cells within N2 cell monolayers but did not stain predifferentiated goblet cells lacking large secretory granules. Monoclonal antibodies against specific carbohydrate sequences of human mucins also failed to stain N2 cells before differentiation, but recognized varying fractions of differentiated N2 goblet cells. Autoradiographic visualization of radiolabeled glycoproteins demonstrated transport and secretion of N2 cell mucin granules. Cholinergic stimulation of differentiated N2 cell monolayers resulted in depletion of intracellular mucin granules.
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