Highly glycosylated MUC1 mediates high affinity L-selectin binding at the human endometrial surface

Lewis W. Francis, Seydou N. Yao, Lydia C. Powell, Sean Griffiths, Alexander Berquand, Thomas Piasecki, William Howe, Andrea S. Gazze, Mary C. Farach-Carson, Pamela Constantinou, Daniel Carson, Lavinia Margarit, Deya Gonzalez, R. Steven Conlan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Sialyl-Lewis X/L-selectin high affinity binding interactions between transmembrane O-glycosylated mucins proteins and the embryo have been implicated in implantation processes within the human reproductive system. However, the adhesive properties of these mucins at the endometrial cell surface are difficult to resolve due to known discrepancies between in vivo models and the human reproductive system and a lack of sensitivity in current in vitro models. To overcome these limitations, an in vitro model of the human endometrial epithelial was interrogated with single molecule force spectroscopy (SMFS) to delineate the molecular configurations of mucin proteins that mediate the high affinity L-selectin binding required for human embryo implantation. Results: This study reveals that MUC1 contributes to both the intrinsic and extrinsic adhesive properties of the HEC-1 cellular surface. High expression of MUC1 on the cell surface led to a significantly increased intrinsic adhesion force (148 pN vs. 271 pN, p < 0.001), whereas this adhesion force was significantly reduced (271 pN vs. 118 pN, p < 0.001) following siRNA mediated MUC1 ablation. Whilst high expression of MUC1 displaying elevated glycosylation led to strong extrinsic (> 400 pN) L-selectin binding at the cell surface, low expression of MUC1 with reduced glycosylation resulted in significantly less (≤200 pN) binding events. Conclusions: An optimal level of MUC1 together with highly glycosylated decoration of the protein is critical for high affinity L-selectin binding. This study demonstrates that MUC1 contributes to cellular adhesive properties which may function to facilitate trophoblast binding to the endometrial cell surface through the L-selectin/sialyl-Lewis x adhesion system subsequent to implantation.[Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number50
JournalJournal of Nanobiotechnology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Adhesion
  • Biophysics
  • Human reproduction
  • Implantation
  • Mucin
  • Single molecule force spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Pharmaceutical Science


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