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In mucus, there is besides water and the mucins (Proteins for mucus), there are Ions like $Ca^{2+},Na^{+}$, etc. I have read that These Ions can Control the mucus swelling, i.e. the volume that the mucus occupies. Moreover, I have heard that some polymers can be affected by the presence of Ions, These are called "electroactive polymers". Is mucus a substance that changes ist consistence dramatically, when Ions are added or removed (equivalently, if pH value is changed due to $H^+$ ions)?

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  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean the mucus, or the mucins? By bringing up "electroactive polymers" it seems like you are thinking in terms of the mucins, but that need not have anything to do with the effects of ions on the volume/viscosity of mucus. In fact, I don't quite see the connection of electroactive polymer and ions, because the former is referring to sensitivity to an electric field, which ions don't necessarily need to be involved in (at least on anything but an atomic scale) due to the presence of other ions of opposite charge. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Dec 7 '19 at 1:54
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Yes. Mucus is hydrated by the movement of ions.

Cells cannot move water. Cells can only move ions, and water follows the osmotic gradient. When hydrating mucus, cells move ions into the mucus and water follows. A failure of this system is seen in cystic fibrosis.

Targeting ion channels in cystic fibrosis

CFTR, the protein that is defective in cystic fibrosis (CF), directly mediates the transport of chloride and other anions through the apical membrane of several types of epithelial cells [1], [2]. Therefore, mutations impairing CFTR function cause a severe imbalance in ion and water transport that leads to a variety of negative effects in various organs. In the lungs, impaired secretion of chloride and bicarbonate appears to have multiple consequences. First, reduced secretion of electrolytes, and consequently of water, causes dehydration of airway surfaces with impairment of mucociliary clearance [3]...

People with cystic fibrosis have a defective chloride channel, and it cannot move chloride into mucus. They therefore have thick mucus with abnormally low water content, and much of the trouble they have with their lungs is because this thick mucus does not perform its functions well.

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