Background: Esophageal adenocarcinomas (EACs) arise due to gastroesophageal reflux, with Barrett's esophagus (BE) regarded as precancerous lesion. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) might play a role during the multistep carcinogenetic process.
Methods: Expression of MMP-1 and -13 was analyzed in esophageal cancer (n = 41 EAC with BE, n = 19 EAC without BE, and n = 10 esophageal squamous-cell carcinomas, ESCC), furthermore in BE without intraepithelial neoplasia (IN) (n = 18), and the cell line OE-33. MMP-1 was co-labelled with Ki-67 (proliferation), Cdx-2 (marker for intestinal metaplasia, BE) and analyzed on mRNA level. MMP-1 staining results were correlated with clinicopathological parameters.
Results: On protein level, MMP-1 expression was found in 39 of 41 (95%) EAC with BE, in 19 of 19 (100%) EAC without BE, in 6 of 10 (60%) ESCC, and in 10 of 18 (56%) BE without IN. No expression of MMP-13 was found in these specimens. Quantification showed 48% MMP-1 positive cells in EAC with BE, compared to 35% in adjacent BE (p < 0.05), 44% in EAC without BE, 32% in ESCC, and 4% in BE without IN. Immunofluorescence double staining experiments revealed increased MMP-1 expressing in proliferating cells (MMP-1+/Ki-67+) (r = 0.943 for BE and r = 0.811 for EAC). On mRNA-level, expression of MMP-1 was significantly higher in EAC compared to BE (p = 0.01) and confirmed immunohistochemical staining results. High MMP-1 levels were associated with lymph node metastases but not with poorer survival (p = 0.307).
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that MMP-1 plays a role as preinvasive factor in BE-associated EAC. Expression of MMP-1 in proliferating BE and EAC cells suggest malignant proliferation following the clonal expansion model.