BACKGROUND: Esophageal replacement with gastric tube is a well-established reconstruction of the alimentary tract after esophagectomy in cancer patients. The resulting molecular events in the transposed gastric tube and residual esophagus have yet to be investigated. Stem cell factor (SCF) was recently shown to be critical for signaling in gastrointestinal motility. SCF expression is here correlated with changes in mucosal morphology, acid and biliary reflux, and motility in the residual esophagus and gastric tube. METHODS: Thirteen patients surgically resected for squamous esophageal carcinoma with gastric tube replaced by esophagogastric anastomosis underwent upper endoscopy, esophageal manometry, 24-hour pH monitoring, and bile reflux detection. Esophageal and gastric mucosa samples were examined for SCF expression by immunohistochemical and semiquantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction analysis and for SCF serum levels by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. RESULTS: All patients showed severe residual esophagus hypoperistalsis and no gastric tube motor activity. The 24-hour pH monitoring was positive in most; 24-hour bile detection was mostly negative. SCF levels in the residual esophageal and gastric tube mucosa were dramatically decreased compared with those of normal subjects. The correlation between SCF and slow-wave activity was positive. CONCLUSIONS: Hypomotility of the residual esophagus and gastric tube seems closely associated with disruption of the SCF/c-kit signaling pathway. However, the absence of notable relations between mucosal changes after chronic exposure to acid, biliary gastric content, and SCF expression indicates that this analysis cannot be considered part of endoscopic follow-up.
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