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What is the “mucin net”?

What is the “mucin net”?


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From Giulia Enders, Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ

Mucins are proteins that form the main constituent of mucus. They help provide hours of fascination and fun for young children who have just found out they can blow bubbles with their own spit. A more useful function is their ability to envelop our teeth and gums in a protective mucin net. We shoot them out of our salivary papillae like Spider-Man shoots webs from his wrists. These microscopic nets can catch bacteria before they have a chance to harm us. While the bad bacteria are caught in the net, antibacterial substances in our saliva can kill them off.

What is the mucin net the author refers to? No result is found when googling it.


From Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

Mucins are a family of high molecular weight, heavily glycosylatedproteins (glycoconjugates) produced by epithelial tissues in most animals. Mucins' key characteristic is their ability to form gels; therefore they are a key component in most gel-like secretions, serving functions from lubrication to cell signalling to forming chemical barriers.

The "ability to form gel" is the key here. Also from Wikipedia:

Gels are defined as a substantially dilute cross-linked system, which exhibits no flow when in the steady-state. By weight, gels are mostly liquid, yet they behave like solids due to a three-dimensional cross-linked network within the liquid.

So, a gel (and mucins are no exception) is composed of a liquid trapped in a 3D net, much like a sponge. This is the "mucin net" your book is referring to.



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