Mucins are a key component of the surface mucus overlying airway epithelium. Given the different functions of the olfactory and respiratory epithelia, we hypothesized that mucins would be differentially expressed between these 2 areas. Secondarily, we evaluated for potential changes in mucin expression with radiation exposure, given the clinical observations of nasal dryness, altered mucus rheology, and smell loss in radiated patients. Immunofluorescence staining was performed to evaluate expression of mucins 1, 2, 5AC, and 5B in nasal respiratory and olfactory epithelia of control mice and 1 week after exposure to 8 Gy of radiation. Mucins 1, 5AC, and 5B exhibited differential expression patterns between olfactory and respiratory epithelium (RE) while mucin 2 showed no difference. In the olfactory epithelium (OE), mucin 1 was located in a lattice-like pattern around gaps corresponding to dendritic knobs of olfactory sensory neurons, whereas in RE it was intermittently expressed by surface goblet cells. Mucin 5AC was expressed by subepithelial glands in both epithelial types but to a higher degree in the OE. Mucin 5B was expressed by submucosal glands in OE and by surface epithelial cells in RE. At 1-week after exposure to single-dose 8 Gy of radiation, no qualitative effects were seen on mucin expression. Our findings demonstrate that murine OE and RE express mucins differently, and characteristic patterns of mucins 1, 5AC, and 5B can be used to define the underlying epithelium. Radiation (8 Gy) does not appear to affect mucin expression at 1 week.

Level of Evidence

N/A (Basic Science Research).

IACUC-approved study [Protocol 200065].

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