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Gastroenterology. 2007 Jan;132(1):154-65. Epub 2006 Oct 12.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease-associated esophagitis induces endogenous cytokine production leading to motor abnormalities.

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  • 1Division of Gastroenterology, University Hospitals of Cleveland, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio.



Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a condition frequently associated with esophagitis and motor abnormalities. Recent evidence suggests that proinflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin (IL)-1beta and IL-6, may be implicated because they reduce esophageal muscle contractility, but these results derive from in vitro or animal models of esophagitis. This study used human esophageal cells and tissues to identify the cellular source of cytokines in human esophagitis investigate whether cytokines can be induced by gastric refluxate, and examine whether esophageal tissue- or cell-derived mediators affect muscle contractility.


Endoscopic mucosal biopsy specimens were obtained from patients with and without esophagitis, organ-cultured, and undernatants were assessed for cytokine content. The cytokine profile of esophageal epithelial, fibroblast, and muscle cells was analyzed, and esophageal mucosa and cell products were tested in an esophageal circular muscle contraction assay.


The mucosa of esophagitis patients produced significantly greater amounts of IL-1beta and IL-6 compared with those of control patients. Cultured esophageal epithelial cells produced IL-6, as did fibroblasts and muscle cells. Epithelial cells exposed to buffered, but not denatured, gastric juice produced IL-6. Undernatants of mucosal biopsy cultures from esophagitis patients reduced esophageal muscle contraction, as did supernatants from esophageal epithelial cell cultures.


The human esophagus produces cytokines capable of reducing contractility of esophageal muscle cells. Exposure to gastric juice is sufficient to stimulate esophageal epithelial cells to produce IL-6, a cytokine able to alter esophageal contractility. These results indicate that classic cytokines are important mediators of the motor disturbances associated with human esophageal inflammation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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