Pathobiology and management of hypergastrinemia and the Zollinger-Ellison syndrome

Yale J Biol Med. 1992 Nov-Dec;65(6):659-76; discussion 689-92.


Gastrin is both stimulatory and trophic to the cells of the gastric fundus--parietal and peptic cells, and enterochromaffin-like (ECL) cells which are major intermediaries of the gastrin effect. Gastrin (from the antrum) and acid (from the fundus) represent the interactive positive and negative limbs of a feedback loop. The nature and extent of sub-loops, perhaps involving the vagus, acetylcholine, histamine, and other peptides and cell products are at present unclear or unknown. Loss of either gastrin or acid has predictable consequences. Absent acid, as in pernicious anemia or as a result of omeprazole, leads to hypergastrinemia. In rats, such hypergastrinemia (gastrin > 1,000 pg/ml) causes fundic ECL hyperplasia and, eventually, carcinoids; in humans with pernicious anemia, hypergastrinemia causes ECL-cell hyperplasia, which may progress to carcinoids that are reversible upon withdrawal of gastrin, illustrated by three cases described here. Loss of gastrin by antrectomy for duodenal ulcer leads to fundic involution and marked reduction in basal acid output, maximal acid output, and fundic histamine. An uncontrolled excess of gastrin, as from a gastrinoma outside the negative feedback loop, causes acid and pepsin hypersecretion with upper GI mucosal damage, the Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. This paper summarizes the abnormal regulation of gastrin and the biology, natural history, diagnosis, and management of ZE syndrome by medical and surgical means.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gastrins / blood*
  • Gastrins / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome / etiology*
  • Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome / therapy*


  • Gastrins