Mucosal protection of the gallbladder is vital yet we know very little about the mechanisms involved. In domestic dogs, an emergent syndrome referred to as gallbladder mucocele formation is characterized by excessive secretion of abnormal mucus that results in obstruction and rupture of the gallbladder. The cause of gallbladder mucocele formation is unknown. In these first mechanistic studies of this disease, we investigated normal and mucocele-forming dog gallbladders to determine the source, identity, biophysical properties, and protein associates of the culprit mucins with aim to identify causes for abnormal mucus behavior. We established that mucocele formation involves an adoptive excess secretion of gel forming mucins with abnormal properties by the gallbladder epithelium. The mucus is characterized by a disproportionally significant increase in Muc5ac relative to Muc5b, defective mucin un-packaging, and mucin-interacting innate defense proteins that are capable of dramatically altering the physical and functional properties of mucus. These findings provide an explanation for abnormal mucus behavior and based on similarity to mucus observed in the airways of people with cystic fibrosis, suggest that abnormal mechanisms for maintenance of gallbladder epithelial hydration may be an instigating factor for mucocele formation in dogs.
Kesimer, M., Cullen, J., Cao, R., Radicioni, G., Mathews, K. G., Seiler, G., & Gookin, J. L. (2015). Excess secretion of gel-forming mucins and associated innate defense proteins with defective mucin un-packaging underpin gallbladder mucocele formation in dogs. PLoS ONE, 10(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0138988