Intestinal metaplasia (IM) in endoscopic biopsies obtained from close to the gastroesophageal junction may represent IM of the cardia (CIM) or Barrett's esophagus (BE), which have different malignant potentials despite similar morphology. This study compared cytokeratin (CK) 7/20 and mucin (MUC1, 2, 5AC, and 6) immunopatterns in biopsies from BE (n = 41), CIM (n = 35), and antral gastric IM (AIM, n = 37) to evaluate their roles as diagnostic aids. CK7 and CK20 expression was described as absent, patchy (superficial and deep), continuous superficial only, continuous deep only, and diffuse. Eleven different combinations of CK7/20 expression were seen. Since CK20 staining was positive in all cases, four main patterns were defined on the basis of the observed CK7 staining as 1, absent; 2, patchy (superficial and/or deep); 3, diffuse; and 4, continuous superficial only. Overall CK7 positivity (regardless of pattern) was higher in BE and CIM than in AIM. CK patterns 3 and 4 were also higher in BE and CIM than in AIM. For either pattern 3 or 4, the positive and negative predictive values for BE versus AIM were 95% and 67%, respectively. MUC1 was rarely expressed in BE and CIM compared with AIM, whereas the opposite was noted for MUC5AC expression. MUC2 and MUC6 expression was similar in all locations. In conclusion, diffuse or continuous superficial CK7 staining is highly characteristic of BE and CIM and contrasts with AIM. It is, however, not very sensitive. CK20 profiles have no added value. Mucin expression also differs between BE and CIM versus AIM, but the specificity of any pattern is insufficient for distinction in individual cases. Importantly, CK and MUC expression patterns in BE and CIM are virtually indistinguishable, limiting their use in this differential and raising the question of whether they are biologically related.
From the Departments of *Pathology and †Gastroenterology, Beaumont Hospital and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland.
Received for publication May 27, 2003; accepted July 8, 2003.
Supported by the Research Committee of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.
Reprints: Christian Gulmann, Department of Pathology, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Education and Research Centre, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9, Ireland (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).