Cytokeratin subsets can reliably distinguish Barrett's esophagus from intestinal metaplasia of the stomach

Hum Pathol. 1999 Mar;30(3):288-94. doi: 10.1016/s0046-8177(99)90007-2.


The histological distinction between intestinal metaplasia involving the distal esophagus (Barrett's esophagus [BE]) and intestinal metaplasia of the stomach has important clinical implications and can be difficult even with the use of histochemical mucin stains. Cytokeratin (CK) 7 and 20 are cytoplasmic structural proteins that show restricted expression in normal and malignant epithelia of the gastrointestinal tract. The aim of this study was to determine the use of CK7 and 20 expression in the histological distinction of BE from gastric intestinal metaplasia. CK7 and 20 immunostaining was performed on randomly selected surgical resection (n = 31) and biopsy specimens (n = 34) from patients with long-segment BE and gastric resection specimens (n = 11) and gastric cardia biopsy specimens (n = 13) in patients with histological evidence of intestinal metaplasia. A unique pattern of immunoreactivity designated the Barrett's CK7/20 pattern showed superficial CK20 staining and strong CK7 staining of both superficial and deep glands in 29 of 31 (94%) esophageal resection specimens and 34 of 34 (100%) esophageal biopsy specimens form patients with long-segment BE. A Barrett's CK7/20 pattern was not observed in gastric cardia biopsy specimens (n = 13) or gastric resection specimens (n = 11) in patients with histological evidence of intestinal metaplasia. The sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value of a Barrett's CK7/20 pattern for a diagnosis of long-segment BE was 97%, 100%, and 100%, respectively. CK7 and 20 reactivity patterns can reliably identify the location of intestinal metaplasia in the esophagus and stomach using histological material from both routine endoscopic biopsy and surgical resection specimens.

MeSH terms

  • Barrett Esophagus / diagnosis*
  • Barrett Esophagus / pathology
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Biopsy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Esophagus / chemistry*
  • Esophagus / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / analysis
  • Intestines / pathology*
  • Keratin-20
  • Keratin-7
  • Keratins / analysis*
  • Male
  • Metaplasia
  • Stomach / chemistry*
  • Stomach / pathology


  • Biomarkers
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • KRT20 protein, human
  • KRT7 protein, human
  • Keratin-20
  • Keratin-7
  • Keratins