Mucin Expression in the Esophageal Malignant and Pre-malignant States: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

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Mucins are heavily glycosylated glycoproteins, synthesized by mucosal surfaces and have an important role in healthy state and malignant diseases. Change in mucins synthesis or secretion may be primary event or secondary to inflammation or carcinogenesis.


The aim of this study is to assess the current knowledge about mucin expression in esophageal lesions, and to establish a role for different mucin expressions as prognostic markers.


English Medical literature searches were conducted for “mucin” and “esophagus.” Observational studies were included. Meta-analysis was performed using comprehensive meta-analysis software. Pooled odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated.


In the random-effect model, mucin expression was significantly higher in esophageal lesions than in normal esophageal mucosa with OR=5.456 (95% CI, 1.883-15.807, P=0.002). Measure of heterogeneity, demonstrated in the included studies, was high: Q=287.501, df (Q)=44.00, P<0.0001, I2=84.696%. There is a gradient of mucin expression and complexity in esophageal premalignant to malignant lesions, lower in Barrett’s mucosa with low grade dysplasia (LGD), increased in high grade dysplasia (HGD), and highest in esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC). MUC2, MUC3, MUC5AC, and MUC6 expression was higher in EAC than HGD, and higher in HGD than in LGD mucosa. The opposite was found for MUC1 and MUC4.


Increased expression of certain mucin genes in esophageal mucosa may be further studied as a potential diagnostic tool, and this may add important information in the surveillance of Barrett’s esophagus.

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