Walking on Solid Ground

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Science  24 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6097, pp. 924-925
DOI: 10.1126/science.1227091

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Mucosal surfaces throughout the human body—including those of the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and genitourinary tracts—are wet tissues that include some form of mucus gel among their defenses (1). In the airways, the mucus gel layer is propelled out of the lungs by ciliary beating and continually renewed by secretion of polymeric mucins (see the figure, panels A and B). This process enables the rapid removal of inhaled pathogens and toxicants (2). The conventional model has been that the mucus gel layer is suspended above a fluid periciliary layer by the beating of cilia. However, as Button et al. report on page 937 of this issue (3), this model is fundamentally wrong. The authors show that the periciliary layer has a macromolecular glycoconjugate structure with a higher density than the mobile gel layer. This dense network is grafted to the epithelial surface.

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