Quantification of MUCIN 1, cell surface associated and MUCIN16, cell surface associated proteins in tears and conjunctival epithelial cells collected from postmenopausal women.
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PURPOSE: To quantify the expression of mucin 1, cell surface associated (MUC1) and mucin 16, cell surface associated (MUC16) proteins and messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) in a cohort of postmenopausal women (PMW), to explore the relationship between mucin expression, dry eye symptomology, and tear stability. METHODS: Thirty-nine healthy PMW (>50 years of age) were enrolled in this study. No specific inclusion criteria were used to define dry eye; instead, a range of subjects were recruited based on responses to the Allergan Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) questionnaire and tear stability measurements as assessed by non-invasive tear breakup time (NITBUT). Tears were collected from the inferior tear meniscus using a disposable glass capillary tube, and total RNA and total protein were isolated from conjunctival epithelial cells collected via impression cytology. Expression of membrane-bound and soluble MUC1 and MUC16 were quantified with western blotting, and expression of MUC1 and MUC16 mRNA was assessed with real-time PCR. RESULTS: OSDI responses ranged from 0 to 60, and NITBUT ranged from 18.5 to 2.9 s. Only two statistically significant correlations were found: soluble MUC16 protein concentration and MUC16 mRNA expression with OSDI vision related (-0.47; p=0.01) and ocular symptom (0.39; p=0.02) subscores, respectively. Post hoc exploratory analysis on absolute expression values was performed on two subsets of subjects defined as asymptomatic (OSDI≤6, n=12) and moderate to severe symptomatic (OSDI≥20, n=12). The only significant difference between the two subgroups was a significant reduction in MUC16 mRNA expression found in the symptomatic dry eye group (1.52±1.19 versus 0.57±0.44; p=0.03). CONCLUSIONS: A broad exploration of mucin expression compared to either a sign (NITBUT) or symptoms of dry eye failed to reveal compelling evidence supporting a significant relationship, other than a potential association between MUC16 with specific symptoms. Furthermore, comparison of mucin protein and expression levels between the asymptomatic and moderate to severe symptomatic subgroups revealed only one significant difference, a reduction in MUC16 mRNA expression in the symptomatic subgroup.