Duodenal-content reflux into the esophagus leads to expression of Cdx2 and Muc2 in areas of squamous epithelium in rats

J Gastrointest Surg. 2007 Jul;11(7):869-74. doi: 10.1007/s11605-007-0162-7.


The molecular events responsible for the transdifferentiation of epithelial cells of the esophagus to a columnar cell type are not well understood. Cdx2 has been detected in Barrett's esophagus, so we sought evidence of Cdx2 expression during the process of transdifferentiation of the esophageal squamous epithelium into a glandular phenotype. Thirty-two rats underwent an esophago-jejunostomy to produce esophagitis of 20, 25, 30, or 35 weeks of duration. The spectrum of esophageal lesions induced by chronic reflux was examined for expression of Cdx2 and Muc2 by immunohistochemistry. Five animals developed glandular metaplasia and adenosquamous carcinoma, two developed only glandular metaplasia, and two had adenosquamous carcinoma alone. Nuclear Cdx2 expression was detected in 57% (four of seven) and 43% (three of seven) of foci of glandular metaplasia and adenosquamous carcinomas, respectively. Cdx2 staining was detectable in some squamous and some mucus secreting cells. Perinuclear and perivacuolar staining of Muc2 was detected focally in 71% (five of seven) and 57% (four of seven) of areas with glandular metaplasia and adenosquamous carcinoma, respectively. We show that duodenal-content reflux into the esophagus switches on the expression of Cdx2 protein in esophageal keratinocytic cells, promoting a mucinous transdifferentiation process with secretion of intestinal mucin Muc2.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / biosynthesis*
  • CDX2 Transcription Factor
  • Duodenogastric Reflux*
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Esophagus / metabolism*
  • Esophagus / pathology
  • Homeodomain Proteins / analysis
  • Homeodomain Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Male
  • Mucin-2
  • Mucins / analysis
  • Mucins / biosynthesis*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Trans-Activators / analysis
  • Trans-Activators / biosynthesis*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CDX2 Transcription Factor
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Muc2 protein, rat
  • Mucin-2
  • Mucins
  • Trans-Activators