Mucin is the major component of mucus and can be used as a marker for mucus secretion. The purpose of this study was to develop an in vitro method to evaluate the regulation of mucin secretion. To do this, we used a sandwiched enzyme-linked lectin assay to measure mucin secretion from isolated ferret tracheal segments. This assay entailed coating microtiter plate wells with dolichos biflorus agglutinin and detecting the bound mucin that was secreted into a buffer solution by the tracheal segments. We used this method to evaluate the secretary response to four secretagogues: prostaglandin F(2α) (PGF(2α)), adenosine triphosphate (ATP), methacholine, and human neutrophil elastase (HNE). Each agent stimulated mucin secretion above baseline secretion (ATP (p = 0.022), PGF(2α) (p = 0.009), and HNE (p < 0.05)), and the relative potency of these secretagogues was PGF(2α) ≤ ATP < MCh < HNE. We also demonstrated that there is an anatomic gradient for both constitutive and stimulated mucin secretion, with the distal tracheal segments secreting more mucin per gram of weight than the proximal segments. This fairly simple and reproducible technique can be used to evaluate the regulation of mucin secretion in the airway and to assess the efficacy of agents that might alter the secretary response.
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