Poly(A)-rich RNA was purified from a pool of five human tracheobronchial mucosa. After in vitro translation in a reticulocyte lysate and immunoprecipitation of the translated products, using either a polyclonal antiserum or a monoclonal antibody to deglycosylated respiratory mucin peptides, the products were characterized by SDS/PAGE. The respiratory mucin precursors migrated as a very large smear from almost the top of the resolving polyacrylamide gel to an area corresponding to a molecular mass of about 100 kDa. After hybridization with mucin cDNA probe TH 29 described by Crepin et al. [Crepin, M., Porchet, N., Aubert, J. P. & Degand, P. (1990) Biorheology 27, 471-484] respiratory mucin mRNAs also appeared polydisperse. Although degradation or incomplete translation of high-molecular-mass mRNA cannot be entirely ruled out, these results suggest that human respiratory apomucins consist of a family of peptides which share some common epitopes. This possibility is in agreement with (a) the diversity of mucin precursors observed previously with pulse/chase experiments performed with explants of human respiratory mucosa and (b) the polydispersity of secreted respiratory mucins observed by electron microscopy.