The membrane-bound mucin-like protein MUC1 with a specified number of tandem repeats has been expressed by transfection of the cDNAs in both the epithelial cell lines MDCK and LLC-PK1, and human lymphoblastoid cell lines T2 and C1R. The structure and glycosylation states of the MUC1 in these four lines were compared with that of the endogenous MUC1 found in the human pancreatic (HPAF) and breast (BT-20) tumor cell lines using flow cytometry and Western blot analysis with anti-MUC1 antibodies, which are either sensitive or insensitive to the glycosylation state of the tandem repeat, and pretreatment of cells with phenyl-alpha-galactosaminide, an inhibitor of mucin sialylation. A similar analysis of MUC1 expression in transfected normal and O-glycosylation defective CHO cells reveals that the addition of galactose to the core oligosaccharide structure is apparently responsible for the anomalous difference in M(r), between the mature and propeptide forms of the MUC1. Both the tumor cells and the transfected lymphoblastoid cells consistently express significant steady state levels of both the heavily glycosylated mature forms and the poorly glycosylated propeptide forms of the MUC1, whereas MUC1 is found predominantly as the mature extensively glycosylated species in the transfected epithelial cells. Immunofluoresence microscopy of cross sections of the polarized epithelial cells grown on culture filter inserts reveals that the MUC1 is clearly present at the apical surface of the cells, consistent with its expression in normal tissues. Thus, the successful expression of the MUC1 by transfection of either lymphoblastoid cells or epithelial cells yields model systems both for studying the natural structure/function relationships of the protein domains within the MUC1 molecule and for further elucidating the previously reported MHC-independent T-cell recognition of the MUC1.