PURPOSE To investigate the effects of mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) on proliferation and mucin-5AC (MUC5AC) mRNA expression of normal human conjunctival goblet cells (CGCs) in vitro and to understand mechanisms of MMF in treatment of dry eye syndrome at molecular level. METHODS Purified human CGCs were treated with a series of graded concentrations of MMF after being confirmed by immunocytochemistry and flow cytometry. Proliferation and MUC5AC mRNA expression of CGCs were measured by Cell Count Kit-8 (CCK-8) and quantitative nested real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (QNRT-PCR at 24 h after treatment. The cell proliferation and MUC5AC mRNA expressiion were compared among different doses of MMF. RESULTS MMF induced a dose-dependent upregulation of MUC5AC mRNA expression (F=238.851, p<0.01) but a biphase effect on proliferation of the CGCs over 24 h of co-incubation. This biphase effect manifested as a dose-dependent increase in cell numbers with MMF from 0.25 to 2.5 ng/ml, an unchanged population of the cells from 2.5 to 10 ng/ml and a reduced population of the cells from 25 to 100 ng/ml. CONCLUSIONS MMF exerts biphase effects on cell regeneration and upregulates MUC5AC mRNA expression in CGCs in vitro. It appears that the use of MMF at low concentrations is attractive in dry eye (DE) treatment.