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Lung carcinoma cell lines are being used in many laboratories to study various airway epithelial functions, including mucin gene expression. To identify model systems for investigating regulation of MUC5/5AC gene expression and secretion of MUC5/5AC mucins in airway epithelial cells, we evaluated the expression of several mucin genes in six carcinoma cell lines of respiratory tract origin. RNA was extracted from A549, Calu-3, NCI H292, Calu-6, RPMI 2650, and A-427 cells; MUC1, MUC2, MUC4, MUC5/5AC, and MUC5B messenger RNA (mRNA) expression was determined. By Northern analyses, all cell lines expressed MUC1 mRNA, whereas MUC2 mRNA was not detectable in any of the cell lines. RPMI 2650 cell lines expressed only MUC1 mRNA. NCI-H292 cells expressed MUC4 and low levels of MUC5/5AC mRNA. Calu-3 and A549 cells expressed MUC5/5AC mRNA; A549 cells also expressed MUC5B mRNA. Glycoconjugates secreted by lung carcinoma cells were also examined. By wheat germ lectin analysis, Calu-3, H292, and A549 cells secreted high molecular weight glycoproteins having N-acetylglucosamine and/or sialic acid moieties. Western blot analyses with an anti-MUC5:TR-3A antibody demonstrated that Calu-3 and A549 cells secreted MUC5/5AC mucins. All six carcinoma cell lines secreted large, radiolabeled, sulfated macromolecules; the majority were proteoglycans that were digested by hyaluronidase. However, Calu-3 cells also secreted sulfated high molecular-weight glycoproteins that were immunoprecipitated by anti-MUC5:TR-3A antibody. These studies demonstrated that Calu-3 and A549 cell lines expressed high and moderate amounts of MUC5/5AC mRNA and MUC5/5AC mucins, whereas H292 cells expressed lesser amounts. These cell lines should prove useful for studies of MUC5/5AC gene expression and MUC5/5AC biosynthesis, trafficking, and secretions in airway epithelial cells.