The mucus gel layer overlying the gastrointestinal epithelium plays an important role in host–pathogen interactions. The initial interaction between the coccidian parasite Eimeria tenella and host cells of the intestinal epithelium must occur across this mucus interface. In this study, we examined the relationship between E. tenella and avian mucin, in particular the effect of purified intestinal regional mucin on parasite adherence and invasion in vitro. Secreted mucin from the chicken duodenum and cecum was purified by density gradient centrifugation and gel chromatography. Parasite invasion studies were performed in the Madin-Darby bovine kidney cell model. Eimeria tenella adherence to chicken duodenal mucin was detected, whereas adherence to cecal or bovine mucin was not shown. Parasite invasion into epithelial cells was not influenced by bovine mucin, whereas chicken mucin purified from the duodenum and cecum significantly inhibited invasion. Inhibition of E. tenella invasion into cells by mucin from the duodenum was marginally greater than that of the cecum, but this was not significant. This study demonstrated E. tenella interaction with native chicken intestinal mucin, which in turn inhibited parasite invasion into epithelial cells in vitro.

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