Molecular defense mechanisms of Barrett's metaplasia estimated by an integrative genomics

J Mol Med (Berl). 2007 Jul;85(7):733-43. doi: 10.1007/s00109-007-0176-3. Epub 2007 Mar 30.


Barrett's esophagus is characterized by the replacement of squamous epithelium with specialized intestinal metaplastic mucosa. The exact mechanisms of initiation and development of Barrett's metaplasia remain unknown, but a hypothesis of "successful adaptation" against noxious reflux components has been proposed. To search for the repertoire of adaptation mechanisms of Barrett's metaplasia, we employed high-throughput functional genomic and proteomic methods that defined the molecular background of metaplastic mucosa resistance to reflux. Transcriptional profiling was established for 23 pairs of esophageal squamous epithelium and Barrett's metaplasia tissue samples using Affymetrix U133A 2.0 GeneChips and validated by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Differences in protein composition were assessed by electrophoretic and mass-spectrometry-based methods. Among 2,822 genes differentially expressed between Barrett's metaplasia and squamous epithelium, we observed significantly overexpressed metaplastic mucosa genes that encode cytokines and growth factors, constituents of extracellular matrix, basement membrane and tight junctions, and proteins involved in prostaglandin and phosphoinositol metabolism, nitric oxide production, and bioenergetics. Their expression likely reflects defense and repair responses of metaplastic mucosa, whereas overexpression of genes encoding heat shock proteins and several protein kinases in squamous epithelium may reflect lower resistance of normal esophageal epithelium than Barrett's metaplasia to reflux components. Despite the methodological and interpretative difficulties in data analyses discussed in this paper, our studies confirm that Barrett's metaplasia may be regarded as a specific microevolution allowing for accumulation of mucosal morphological and physiological changes that better protect against reflux injury.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics
  • Barrett Esophagus / etiology
  • Barrett Esophagus / genetics*
  • Barrett Esophagus / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell
  • Esophagus
  • Female
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / pathology
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metaplasia / etiology*
  • Metaplasia / genetics
  • Mucous Membrane / pathology
  • Precancerous Conditions
  • Proteomics
  • Transcription, Genetic