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Zinc Deficiency Disturbs Mucin Expression, O-Glycosylation and Secretion by Intestinal Goblet Cells

Maares, Maria; Keil, Claudia; Straubing, Sophia; Robbe-Masselot, Catherine; Haase, Hajo

Approximately 1 billion people worldwide suffer from zinc deficiency, with severe consequences for their well-being, such as critically impaired intestinal health. In addition to an extreme degeneration of the intestinal epithelium, the intestinal mucus is seriously disturbed in zinc-deficient (ZD) animals. The underlying cellular processes as well as the relevance of zinc for the mucin-producing goblet cells, however, remain unknown. To this end, this study examines the impact of zinc deficiency on the synthesis, production, and secretion of intestinal mucins as well as on the zinc homeostasis of goblet cells using the in vitro goblet cell model HT-29-MTX. Zinc deprivation reduced their cellular zinc content, changed expression of the intestinal zinc transporters ZIP-4, ZIP-5, and ZnT1 and increased their zinc absorption ability, outlining the regulatory mechanisms of zinc homeostasis in goblet cells. Synthesis and secretion of mucins were severely disturbed during zinc deficiency, affecting both MUC2 and MUC5AC mRNA expression with ongoing cell differentiation. A lack of zinc perturbed mucin synthesis predominantly on the post-translational level, as ZD cells produced shorter O-glycans and the main O-glycan pattern was shifted in favor of core-3-based mucins. The expression of glycosyltransferases that determine the formation of core 1-4 O-glycans was altered in zinc deficiency. In particular, B3GNT6 mRNA catalyzing core 3 formation was elevated and C2GNT1 and C2GNT3 elongating core 1 were downregulated in ZD cells. These novel insights into the molecular mechanisms impairing intestinal mucus stability during zinc deficiency demonstrate the essentiality of zinc for the formation and maintenance of this physical barrier.
Published in: International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 10.3390/ijms21176149, MDPI