On the relationship between sialomucin and sulfomucin expression and hydrogenotrophic microbes in the human colonic mucosa

Jennifer A. Croix, Franck Carbonero, Gerardo M. Nava, Mark Russell, Eugene Greenberg, H. Rex Gaskins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The colonic mucus layer is comprised primarily of acidomucins, which provide viscous properties and can be broadly classified into sialomucins or sulfomucins based on the presence of terminating sialic acid or sulfate groups. Differences in acidomucin chemotypes have been observed in diseases such as colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease, and variation in sialo- and sulfomucin content may influence microbial colonization. For example, sulfate derived from sulfomucin degradation may promote the colonization of sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB), which through sulfate respiration generate the genotoxic gas hydrogen sulfide. Here, paired biopsies from right colon, left colon, and rectum of 20 subjects undergoing routine screening colonoscopies were collected to enable parallel histochemical and microbiological studies. Goblet cell sialo- and sulfomucins in each biopsy were distinguished histochemically and quantified. Quantitative PCR and multivariate analyses were used to examine the abundance of hydrogenotrophic microbial groups and SRB genera relative to acidomucin profiles. Regional variation was observed in sialomucins and sulfomucins with the greatest abundance of each found in the rectum. Mucin composition did not appear to influence the abundance of SRB or other hydrogenotrophic microbiota but correlated with the composition of different SRB genera. A higher sulfomucin proportion correlated with higher quantities of Desulfobacter, Desulfobulbus and Desulfotomaculum, relative to the predominant Desulfovibrio genus. Thus, acidomucin composition may influence bacterial sulfate respiration in the human colon, which may in turn impact mucosal homeostasis. These results stress the need to consider mucus characteristics in the context of studies of the microbiome that target intestinal diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere24447
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 9 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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