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MUC1 is a transmembrane glycoprotein, apically expressed in most epithelial cells, used in the differential diagnosis of carcinomas and for discrimination of tumors of non-epithelial origin showing epithelioid features. Little attention has been paid so far though, on its possible significance in embryonic tissues. A preliminary study from our group revealed MUC1 expression in the cap mesenchymal cells during human nephrogenesis, suggesting a role for MUC1 in the process of mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition. This study aimed at investigating the expression pattern of MUC1 in various developing structures of human fetal kidney. Expression of MUC1 was examined in kidneys of 5 human fetuses. MUC1 immunoreactivity was detected in ureteric bud tips, in collecting tubules, in cap mesenchymal cells undergoing the initial phases of mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition, in renal vesicles, comma-bodies, and S-shaped bodies. Our previous preliminary report suggested a role for MUC1 in the initial phases of the process of mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition. The present data suggest that MUC1 expression characterizes multiple structures during human nephrogenesis, from the ureteric bud, to the initial phases of mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition and that MUC1 should be added to the genes activated during the process of mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition in the cap mesenchyme of human kidney.
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