<p>Barrett’s esophagus in gastrointestinal reflux patients constitutes a columnar epithelium with distal characteristics, prone to progress to esophageal adenocarcinoma. HOX genes are known mediators of position-dependent morphology. Here we show HOX collinearity in the adult gut while Barrett’s esophagus shows high HOXA13 expression in stem cells and their progeny. HOXA13 overexpression appears sufficient to explain both the phenotype (through downregulation of the epidermal differentiation complex) and the oncogenic potential of Barrett’s esophagus. Intriguingly, employing a mouse model that contains a reporter coupled to the HOXA13 promotor we identify single HOXA13-positive cells distally from the physiological esophagus, which is mirrored in human physiology, but increased in Barrett’s esophagus. Additionally, we observe that HOXA13 expression confers a competitive advantage to cells. We thus propose that Barrett’s esophagus and associated esophageal adenocarcinoma is the consequence of expansion of this gastro-esophageal HOXA13-expressing compartment following epithelial injury.</p>

doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-23641-8, hdl.handle.net/1765/135874
Nature Communications
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

V.T. (Vincent) Janmaat, K. (Kateryna) Nesteruk, V.M.C.W. (Manon) Spaander, A.P. (Auke) Verhaar, B. (Bingting) Yu, RC Silva, … M.P. (Maikel) Peppelenbosch. (2021). HOXA13 in etiology and oncogenic potential of Barrett’s esophagus. Nature Communications, 12(1). doi:10.1038/s41467-021-23641-8