Glyco-Modification of Mucin Hydrogels to Investigate Their Immune Activity

Hongji Yan, Morgan Hjorth, Benjamin Winkeljann, Illia Dobryden, Oliver Lieleg, Thomas Crouzier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Mucins are multifunctional glycosylated proteins that are increasingly investigated as building blocks of novel biomaterials. An attractive feature is their ability to modulate the immune response, in part by engaging with sialic acid binding receptors on immune cells. Once assembled into hydrogels, bovine submaxillary mucins (Muc gels) were shown to modulate the recruitment and activation of immune cells and avoid fibrous encapsulation in vivo. However, nothing is known about the early immune response to Muc gels. This study characterizes the response of macrophages, important orchestrators of the material-mediated immune response, over the first 7 days in contact with Muc gels. The role of mucin-bound sialic acid sugar residues was investigated by first enzymatically cleaving the sugar and then assembling the mucin variants into covalently cross-linked hydrogels with rheological and surface nanomechanical properties similar to nonmodified Muc gels. Results with THP-1 and human primary peripheral blood monocytes derived macrophages showed that Muc gels transiently activate the expression of both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines and cell surface markers, for most makers with a maximum on the first day and loss of the effect after 7 days. The activation was sialic acid-dependent for a majority of the markers followed. The pattern of gene expression, protein expression, and functional measurements did not strictly correspond to M1 or M2 macrophage phenotypes. This study highlights the complex early events in macrophage activation in contact with mucin materials and the importance of sialic acid residues in such a response. The enzymatic glyco-modulation of Muc gels appears as a useful tool to help understand the biological functions of specific glycans on mucins which can further inform on their use in various biomedical applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19324-19336
Number of pages13
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number17
StatePublished - 29 Apr 2020


  • glyco-modulation
  • macrophages
  • mucin hydrogels
  • sialic acid
  • surface nanomechanical property


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