The MUC1 extracellular domain subunit is found in nuclear speckles and associates with spliceosomes

Priyadarsina Kumar, Louise Lindberg, Twanda L. Thirkill, Jennifer W. Ji, Lindsay Martsching, Gordon C Douglas

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15 Scopus citations


MUC1 is a large transmembrane glycoprotein and oncogene expressed by epithelial cells and overexpressed and underglycosylated in cancer cells. The MUC1 cytoplasmic subunit (MUC1-C) can translocate to the nucleus and regulate gene expression. It is frequently assumed that the MUC1 extracellular subunit (MUC1-N) does not enter the nucleus. Based on an unexpected observation that MUC1 extracellular domain antibody produced an apparently nucleus-associated staining pattern in trophoblasts, we have tested the hypothesis that MUC1-N is expressed inside the nucleus. Three different antibodies were used to identify MUC1-N in normal epithelial cells and tissues as well as in several cancer cell lines. The results of immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy analyses as well as subcellular fractionation, Western blotting, and siRNA/shRNA studies, confirm that MUC1-N is found within nuclei of all cell types examined. More detailed examination of its intranuclear distribution using a proximity ligation assay, subcellular fractionation, and immunoprecipitation suggests that MUC1-N is located in nuclear speckles (interchromatin granule clusters) and closely associates with the spliceosome protein U2AF65. Nuclear localization of MUC1-N was abolished when cells were treated with RNase A and nuclear localization was altered when cells were incubated with the transcription inhibitor 5,6-dichloro-1-b-d-ribofuranosylbenzimidazole (DRB). While MUC1-N predominantly associated with speckles, MUC1-C was present in the nuclear matrix, nucleoli, and the nuclear periphery. In some nuclei, confocal microscopic analysis suggest that MUC1-C staining is located close to, but only partially overlaps, MUC1-N in speckles. However, only MUC1-N was found in isolated speckles by Western blotting. Also, MUC1-C and MUC1-N distributed differently during mitosis. These results suggest that MUC1-N translocates to the nucleus where it is expressed in nuclear speckles and that MUC1-N and MUC1-C have dissimilar intranuclear distribution patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere42712
JournalPLoS One
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 8 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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