BACKGROUND: Patients with Barrett's oesophagus (BO) are at risk of oesophageal adenocarcinoma. Because the pattern of mucosal mucins changes during neoplastic progression, it may serve as a marker of intraepithelial neoplasia. AIMS: To determine the expression pattern of mucins in neoplastic BO epithelium (high grade dysplasia) and correlate it with the expression of apoptosis markers Bax and Bcl-2. METHODS: Thirty seven patients with BO were studied: 16 without intraepithelial neoplasia, six with high grade intraepithelial neoplasia (HGN), and 15 with infiltrating adenocarcinoma. Biopsies were obtained from squamous epithelium, Barrett's epithelium, and (when present) foci of suspected HGN or adenocarcinoma. MUC1-4, MUC5AC, MUC5B, MUC6, Bax, and Bcl-2 mRNA were determined by semiquantitative RT-PCR. MUC2, MUC5AC, and MUC6 protein was determined by immunoblotting. RESULTS: Mucin expression varied between neoplastic progression stages in BO. Mucin mRNA levels were low in squamous epithelium, except for MUC4, and were at least four times higher in BO and HGN (p<0.001), but less so in adenocarcinoma. MUC4 expression was significantly lower in BO than in normal squamous epithelium, whereas in HGN and adenocarcinoma, levels were significantly higher than in BO (p = 0.037). The Bax:Bcl-2 ratio was increased in HGN compared with BO (p = 0.04). MUC2, MUC5AC, and MUC6 protein values correlated with mRNA data. CONCLUSIONS: Mucin expression varies during the development of oesophageal adenocarcinoma in BO. MUC4 could serve as a tumour marker in this process. In contrast to animal studies, upregulation of MUC4 in HGN is associated with increased apoptosis, suggesting that MUC4 plays a minor role in apoptosis regulation in BO.

Adenocarcinoma/chemistry, Apoptosis/physiology, Barrett Esophagus/*metabolism, Carcinoma in Situ/*chemistry, Esophageal Neoplasms/*chemistry, Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic, Humans, Mucins/*analysis, Neoplasm Proteins/*analysis, Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2/*analysis, RNA, Messenger/analysis, RNA, Neoplasm/analysis, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction/methods, bcl-2-Associated X Protein
Journal of Clinical Pathology: an international peer-reviewed journal for health professionals and researchers in clinical pathology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Bax, D.A, Haringsma, J, Einerhand, A.W.C, van Dekken, H, Blok, P, Siersema, P.D, … Kusters, J.G. (2004). MUC4 is increased in high grade intraepithelial neoplasia in Barrett's oesophagus and is associated with a proapoptotic Bax to Bcl-2 ratio. Journal of Clinical Pathology: an international peer-reviewed journal for health professionals and researchers in clinical pathology. Retrieved from