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Mucins are components of the mucus layer overlying the intestinal epithelial cells, which maintains physiological homeostasis. Altered mucin expression is associated with disease progression. Expression of MUC4 decreases in colorectal cancer (CRC); however, its functional role and implications in the intestinal pathology in CRC are not studied well. Therefore, we generated a genetically engineered Muc4 knockout (Muc4-/-) CRC mouse model by crossing with Muc4-/- and Apcflox/flox mice in the presence of colon-specific inducible Cre. We observed that deficiency of Muc4 results in an increased number of macroscopic tumors in the colon and rectal region and leads to poor survival. Further, the absence of Muc4 was associated with goblet cell dysfunction where the expression of intestinal homeostasis molecules (Muc2 and Fam3D) was downregulated. Next, we also observed that loss of Muc4 showed reduced thickness of mucus layer, leading to infiltration of bacteria, reduction in anti-microbial peptides, and upregulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Further, Apc gene mutation results in activation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway that corroborated with an increased nuclear accumulation of β-catenin and activation of its target genes: cyclin D1 and c-Myc in Muc4-/- mice was observed. We conclude that the presence of Muc4 is essential for intestinal homeostasis, reduces tumor burden, and improves overall survival.



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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.