Glycosylation of sputum mucins is altered in cystic fibrosis patients

Benjamin L. Schulz, Andrew J. Sloane, Leanne J. Robinson, Sindhu S. Prasad, Robyn A. Lindner, Michael Robinson, Peter T. Bye, Dennis W. Nielson, Jenny L. Harry, Nicolle H. Packer*, Niclas G. Karlsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


Cystic fibrosis (CF) is characterized by chronic lung infection and inflammation, with periods of acute exacerbation causing severe and irreversible lung tissue damage. We used protein and glycosylation analysis of high-molecular mass proteins in saline-induced sputum from CF adults with and without an acute exacerbation, CF children with stable disease and preserved lung function, and healthy non-CF adult and child controls to identify potential biomarkers of lung condition. While the main high-molecular mass proteins in the sputum from all subjects were the mucins MUC5B and MUC5AC, these appeared degraded in CF adults with an exacerbation. The glycosylation of these mucins also showed reduced sulfation, increased sialylation, and reduced fucosylation in CF adults compared with controls. Despite improvements in pulmonary function after hospitalization, these differences remained. Two CF children showed glycoprotein profiles similar to those of CF adults with exacerbations and also presented with pulmonary flares shortly after sampling, while the remaining CF children had profiles indistinguishable from those of healthy non-CF controls. Sputum mucin glycosylation and degradation are therefore not inherently different in CF, and may also be useful predictive biomarkers of lung condition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)698-712
Number of pages15
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Mucin
  • O-glycosylation
  • Pulmonary exacerbation


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