GERD is associated with shortened telomeres in the squamous epithelium of the distal esophagus

Rhonda F. Souza, Tisha Lunsford, Ruben D. Ramirez, Xi Zhang, Edward L. Lee, Yuenan Shen, Charles Owen, Jerry W. Shay, Carmela Morales, Stuart Jon Spechler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Telomeres are repetitive DNA sequences located at the ends of chromosomes. Telomeres are shortened by repeated cell divisions and by oxidative DNA damage, and cells with critically shortened telomeres cannot divide. We hypothesized that chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)-induced injury of the esophageal squamous epithelium results in progressive telomeric shortening that eventually might interfere with mucosal healing. To address our hypothesis, we compared telomere length and telomerase activity in biopsy specimens of esophageal squamous epithelium from GERD patients and control patients. Endoscopic biopsies were taken from the esophageal squamous epithelium of 38 patients with GERD [10 long-segment Barrett's esophagus (LSBE), 15 short-segment (SSBE), 13 GERD without Barrett's esophagus] and 16 control patients without GERD. Telomere length was assessed using the terminal restriction fragment assay, and telomerase activity was studied by the PCR-based telomeric repeat amplification protocol assay. Patients with GERD had significantly shorter telomeres in the distal esophagus than controls [8.3 ± 0.5 vs. 10.9 ± 1.5 (SE) Kbp, P = 0.043]. Among the patients with GERD, telomere length in the distal esophagus did not differ significantly in those with and without Barrett's esophagus (LSBE 7.9 ± 0.8, SSBE 8.6 ± 0.9, GERD without BE 8.7 ± 1.0 Kbp). No significant differences in telomerase activity in the distal esophagus were noted between patients with GERD and controls (4.0 ± 0.39 vs. 5.2 ± 0.53 RIUs). Telomeres in the squamous epithelium of the distal esophagus of patients who have GERD, with and without Barrett's esophagus, are significantly shorter than those of patients without GERD despite similar levels of telomerase activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G19-G24
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Barrett's esophagus
  • Gastresophageal reflux disease
  • Telomerase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'GERD is associated with shortened telomeres in the squamous epithelium of the distal esophagus'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this