Accuracy and Cut-Off Values of Pepsinogens I, II and
Gastrin 17 for Diagnosis of Gastric Fundic Atrophy:
Influence of Gastritis
Dariush Nasrollahzadeh1,2, Karim Aghcheli2, Masoud Sotoudeh2, Ramin Shakeri2, E. Christina Persson3,
Farhad Islami4,2, Farin Kamangar5,2,3, Christian C. Abnet3, Paolo Boffetta6,7, Lars Engstrand8, Sanford M.
Dawsey3, Reza Malekzadeh2*, Weimin Ye1*
1Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, 2Digestive Disease Research Center, Tehran University of Medical
Sciences, Tehran, Iran, 3Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, United States of
America, 4International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France, 5Department of Public Health Analysis, School of Community Health and Policy, Morgan State
University, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America, 6The Tisch Cancer Institute and Institute for Translational Epidemiology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New
York, New York, United States of America, 7International Prevention Research Institute, Lyon, France, 8Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control, Stockholm,
Background: To establish optimal cutoff values for serologic diagnosis of fundic atrophy in a high-risk area for oesophageal
squamous cell carcinoma and gastric cancer with high prevalence of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) in Northern Iran, we
performed an endoscopy-room-based validation study.
Methods: We measured serum pepsinogens I (PGI) and II (PGII), gastrin 17 (G-17), and antibodies against whole H. pylori, or
cytotoxin-associated gene A (CagA) antigen among 309 consecutive patients in two major endoscopy clinics in
northeastern Iran. Updated Sydney System was used as histology gold standard. Areas under curves (AUCs), optimal cutoff
and predictive values were calculated for serum biomarkers against the histology.
Results: 309 persons were recruited (mean age: 63.5 years old, 59.5% female). 84.5% were H. pylori positive and 77.5% were
CagA positive. 21 fundic atrophy and 101 nonatrophic pangastritis were diagnosed. The best cutoff values in fundic atrophy
assessment were calculated at PGI,56 mg/l (sensitivity: 61.9%, specificity: 94.8%) and PGI/PGII ratio,5 (sensitivity: 75.0%,
specificity: 91.0%). A serum G-17,2.6 pmol/l or G-17.40 pmol/l was 81% sensitive and 73.3% specific for diagnosing fundic
atrophy. At cutoff concentration of 11.8 mg/l, PGII showed 84.2% sensitivity and 45.4% specificity to distinguish nonatrophic
pangastritis. Exclusion of nonatrophic pangastritis enhanced diagnostic ability of PGI/PGII ratio (from AUC=0.66 to 0.90) but
did not affect AUC of PGI. After restricting study samples to those with PGII,11.8, the sensitivity of using PGI,56 to define
fundic atrophy increased to 83.3% (95%CI 51.6–97.9) and its specificity decreased to 88.8% (95%CI 80.8–94.3).
Conclusions: Among endoscopy clinic patients, PGII is a sensitive marker for extension of nonatrophic gastritis toward the
corpus. PGI is a stable biomarker in assessment of fundic atrophy and has similar accuracy to PGI/PGII ratio among
populations with prevalent nonatrophic pangastritis.
Citation: Nasrollahzadeh D, Aghcheli K, Sotoudeh M, Shakeri R, Persson EC, et al. (2011) Accuracy and Cut-Off Values of Pepsinogens I, II and Gastrin 17 for
Diagnosis of Gastric Fundic Atrophy: Influence of Gastritis. PLoS ONE 6(10): e26957. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026957
Editor: Hana Algu ¨l, Technische Universita ¨t Mu ¨nchen, Germany
Received April 15, 2011; Accepted October 7, 2011; Published October 31, 2011
Copyright: ? 2011 Nasrollahzadeh et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funding: This study was supported by the research grants from Swedish Research Council and Digestive Disease Research Centre, Tehran University of Medical
Sciences. DN was partly supported by a scholarship from Karolinska Institute (KID-December 2008). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and
analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
* E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (RM); email@example.com (WY)
Chronic atrophic gastritis is a precursor for non-cardia gastric
cancer and a possible risk factor for oesophageal squamous cell
carcinoma (OSCC).  Histologic evaluation of gastric biopsy
specimens is the standard way to identify atrophy, however in large
epidemiologic studies measurement of serum biomarkers such as
pepsinogens I, II, and gastrin-17 have been utilized as an alternative
diagnostic method.  Pepsinogen I (PGI) is produced in the fundic
glands and decreases proportionally with progression of fundic
atrophy. Pepsinogen II (PGII) is synthesized in most parts of the
gastric mucosa and part of the duodenum and shows no consistent
pattern with fundic or antral atrophy, although decrease in PGI
to PGII ratio (PGI/PGII) has been shown of value for detection of
fundic atrophy.  Gastrin is synthesized in antroduodenal G-cells
and its combination with pepsinogens has been suggested as a
marker for atrophy assessment  but the results of previous studies
are not consistent on gastrin alteration with fundic atrophy.
PLoS ONE | www.plosone.org1 October 2011 | Volume 6 | Issue 10 | e26957
Helicobacter pylori(H. pylori) infection is the key determinant in
fundic atrophy development,  which also affects pepsinogen and
gastrin secretion. Patterns of H. pylori-induced gastritis and its
outcome differ among populations. In the majority of infected
individuals in developed countries inflammation is limited to the
antrum with minimal involvement of the corpus and acid output
remains normal or increased.  By contrast, in certain
populations, H. pylori-induced gastritis frequently extends from
the antrum to the corpus and results in pangastritiswhich is
suggested as one of the steps in progression from H. pylori-induced
gastritis to fundic atrophy and gastric carcinogenesis. Several
cutoff values have been applied in defining fundic atrophy among
different populations. We hypothesize that prevalence of
marked nonatrophic pangastrits in the study population might
influence the accuracy and cutoff values of pepsinogens in atrophy
evaluation. Eastern part of Golestan Province in Caspian littoral of
Iran has some of the highest incidence rates of OSCC
worldwide[13,14,15,16] together with high prevalence of infection
with cytotoxin-associated gene A positive(CagA+) strains of H.
pylori (unpublished data), and high gastric cancer incidence rates.
 The aim of the present study was to evaluate the validity of
serologic diagnosis of fundic atrophy by examining the levels of
PGI, PGII, PGI/PGII ratio, and G-17 against histology gold
standard and also to determine influence of nonatrophic
pangastritis on accuracy of serum biomarkers among patients
who visited two major endoscopy clinics in the eastern Golestan
During study period, 329 patients aged 50 or older visited the
endoscopy clinics. Dyspepsia was the main reason for performing
gastroscopy. For 20 patients, blood samples were not available due
to lack of consent, therefore these patients were excluded. The
mean age (SD) of the included subjects was 63.5 (9.1) with a range
from 50 to 90 years, and 184 (59.5%) of the participants were
Adequate sampling of tissue was achieved in 98% and 2% had
suboptimal mass for pathological diagnosis. Oxyntic mucosa was
present in 93.6% of the corpus biopsies. Fundic atrophy was
observed in 21 (6.8%) patients among whom 19 also showed
presence of intestinal metaplasia. In all, 101 patients were
diagnosed as with nonatrophic pangastritis. In total 261 (84.5%),
22 (7.1%), and 26 (8.4%) patients were categorized as H. pylori+,
H. pylori- and unknown H. pylori status. Kappa (95% CI) statistics
for agreement between quantitative and qualitative method of H.
pylori assessment was 0.6 (0.5–0.7). CagA+ subjects (77.5%) were
significantly younger than CagA- patients (62.8 vs. 65.7 years)
(p=0.02). The CagA+ proportions among moderate and marked
fundic atrophy and antral gastritis are summarized in Figure 1.
A total of 75 subjects (24.3%) were ever tobacco users. After
adjustment for histology diagnosis of fundic atrophy, there was no
significant effect of age (above vs. below median)and tobacco use
on PGI, PGII, PGI/PGII ratio, and G-17 levels. Male subjects
were more likely to have a higher PGI level (mean difference: 26.3,
95% CI: 5.4–47.2). There were no statistical differences between
men and women on the level of PGII (mean difference: 0.78, 95%
CI: 23.5 25.1) and level of gastrin (mean difference: 23.7, 95%
CI: 29.922.5). Proportion of H. pylori positive was 86.4% and
87% for men and women, respectively (p=0.89). CagA was
positive among 77.6% of females and 77.2% of males (P=0.9).
The levels of PGI, PGII, PGI/PGII ratio, G-17 and H. pylori,
CagA status are summarized in Table 1.
The maximum J was achieved at PGI (c*) =56 mg/l (J=0.55)
and at PGI/PGII (c*) = 5 (J=0.68). Maximum J for G-17 was
achieved at two points; G-17=2.6 pmol/l and G-17=40 pmol/l.
Corresponding test accuracy parameters and the combinations of
tests are summarized in Table 2. The proportions of PPI use and
H. pylori infection did not differ among categories of G-17 which
were produced by the G-17 cutoff points, however duration of PPI
use among those with G-17.40 pmol/l was significantly longer
Diagnostic accuracy of PGI, PGI/PGII ratio, PGII, and G-17
to differentiate nonatrophic pangastritis and fundic atrophy are
summarized in Table 2. The potentiation of PGI, PGII and G-17
in distinguishing nonatrophic pangastritis occurs independently
from fundic atrophy exclusion. On the contrary, when we
evaluated fundic atrophy, AUC for PGI/PGII ratio increased
from 0.83 (0.73–0.93) to 0.90 (0.80–0.99) after exclusion of
nonatrophic pangastritis. In assessment of nonatrophic pangas-
tritis, receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve revealed a
differential diagnostic advantage of PGII over PGI and G-
Figure 1. CagA+ + proportion among moderate and marked fundal atrophy (dotted bar) and antral gastritis (dark bar) in comparison
with no-atrophy no gastritis (diagonal lined bar) subjects.
Serum Biomarkers and Fundic Atrophy Diagnosis
PLoS ONE | www.plosone.org2 October 2011 | Volume 6 | Issue 10 | e26957
17(Figure 2). The AUC for PGII was greater than that for PGI
(X2(1, N: 308) =24.9, p,0.0001) and G-17 (X2(1, N: 308) =15.1,
p=0.0001), respectively. The AUC for PGII to predict non-
atrophic pangastritis was greater than that for antral gastritis (0.45
[95% CI 0.40–0.50]; X2=20.7; p,0.0001) and antral atrophy
(0.49 [0.45–0.54]; X2=14.2; p=0.0002). After restricting study
samples to those with PGII,11.8, sensitivity of using PGI,56 to
define fundic atrophy increased to 83.3% (95%CI 51.6–97.9) and
its specificity decreased to 88.8% (95%CI 80.8–94.3).
The tests for equality of the PAUCs for PGI and PGI/PGII
ratio at the FPF equal to 0.05 (p=0.95), 0.1 (p=0.73), 0.15
(p=0.58), and 0.20 (p=0.56) showed no difference. The empirical
PAUC for PGI and PGI/PGII ratio at FPF,0.20 was 0.06 and
0.07 respectively (p=0.74). After dividing fundic atrophy subjects
to moderate and marked, we observed an increase in AUCs
(95%CI) for PGI from 0.69 (0.48–0.90) for moderate atrophy to
0.93 (0.84–1.00) for marked fundic atrophy.
Current PPI use was reported by 147(47.6%) patients with
median (interquartile range) duration of 12(1–24) months. PPI use
significantly increased serum levels of PGI (mean difference: 38.9,
95% CI: 19.2–58.7) and G-17 (mean difference: 6.7, 95% CI: 0.6–
12.8). Exclusion of current PPI users insignificantly enhanced the
sensitivity (Sen) and AUC of PGI (Sen: 81.8%, AUC: 0.88) and
PGI/PGII ratio (Sen: 91%, AUC: 0.90).
Definitive atrophy diagnosis through endoscopy and histology
examination requires invasive clinical intervention. Even histology
examination that is regarded as gold standard may be subject to
error due to patchy nature of atrophy and the limitation in the
number of biopsies. Most of the reported specificities for serologic
diagnosis of fundal atrophy are 0.9 or more. In order to calculate
the optimal cut point level, we considered false positive fraction to
be less than 10%.
The outcome of interest and the method of laboratory
assessment vary among studies which aimed to evaluate diagnostic
ability of pepsinogens. When screening of gastric cancer is
purposed, PGI,70 mg/l and PGI/PGII ratio,3, measured by
radioimmunoassay method, has been frequently applied as the
threshold for defining population at risk in the studies from
Japan. Calculated cutoff values for PGI in our study was in
close range with reports among dyspeptic patients in European
countries. Our result on similar ability of PGI/PGII ratio and
PGI has been previously reported, but majority of the studies
showed superior ability of the joined PGI and PGI/PGII ratio
or the PGI/PGII ratio alone.[5,18,21] One explanation for this
observed equal ability might be the high proportion of patients
with multifocal gastritis among our study subjects. PGII has been
suggested as a marker for all types of gastritis,[22,23], and we
showed that PGII behaved as a marker for nonatrophic
pangastritis indifferently toward exclusion of fundic atrophy. As
a result, in our population with high prevalence of pangastritis,
diagnostic ability of PGI/PGII ratio was shared between fundic
atrophy and multifocal gastritis which led to the attenuation of
PGI/PGII accuracy in atrophy assessment. Another evidence for
instability of PGI/PGII ratio over PGI came from follow-up
studies on H. pylori eradication. After H. pylori eradication, PGI
acted as a superior predictor for gastric mucosal secretion than the
PGI/PGII ratio, partly due to the increase in PGI/PGII ratio
after H. pylori eradication  which is mirrored the PGII
reduction after relatively healing of inflammation. This finding
suggests that PGI and PGII are markers for two different stages of
fundic atrophy development. Significant change in serum PGI
Table 1. Levels of pepsinogens, gastrin, and percentage of subjects seropositive for H. pylori, and CagA according to the topography of moderate/marked gastritis and atrophy.
No gastritis No
Gastritis without atrophy
Fundic atrophy vs. otherwise
Mean age (SD) years
Current PPI use(%)
Mean PGI (IQR) mg/l
Mean PGII (IQR) mg/l
Mean PGI/PGII (IQR)
Mean G-17 (IQR) pmol/l
H. pylori+ (%)*
24 (50. 0)
SD: Standard deviation, IQR: interquartile range, PGI: pepsinogen I, PGII: pepsinogen II, CagA: cytotoxin-associated gene A, PPI (proton pump inhibitor).
*H. pylori status was determined according to the results of histology examination, ELISA IgA/IgG, and Western blot.
Serum Biomarkers and Fundic Atrophy Diagnosis
PLoS ONE | www.plosone.org3 October 2011 | Volume 6 | Issue 10 | e26957
happens after establishment of moderate and marked fundic
atrophy while PGII is sensitive to extension of inflammation
toward the corpus and monitors earlier histologic changes. A
recent study evaluated these markers separately and reported
higher risk for gastric cancer in comparison to the ratio.
Several studies have looked on the association between pepsino-
gens and topography of gastritis [27,28,29,30]. Among these
studies which used PGII or PGI/PGII ratio, either absence of
association , or presence of association with pangastritis was
reported comparing with corpus-spared gastritis [32,33,34]. None
of these studies suggested a cutoff value for PGII to distinguish
pangastritis, additionally exclusion of fundal atrophy was not
always among criteria of pangastritis definition. After exclusion of
fundal atrophy group from pangastritis, our data suggested that
PGII monitors specifically the extension of inflammation from the
antrum to the corpus for the reason that its accuracy was
significantly lower for corpus-spared gastritis. Because pangastritis
might play a role in gastric ulcer, gastric atrophy, and gastric
cancer, we further suggested a cut-off value of 11.8 mg/l with
85.5% NPV. The clinical use of this marker is limited due to its
low PPV but it might be helpful to be applied in combination with
other markers in multistep screening programs, however it is
suggested that PGII ,9.47 mg/l  or one fourth decrease in
PGII level  could be used as a marker for H. pylori eradication.
Furthermore, using PGII cutoff value in addition to PGI could
help to make a more homogenous group for epidemiologic studies
of atrophy association with other gastrointestinal diseases. In
consistence with a study among H. pylori infected subjects  we
did not observe discriminative ability of PGI, PGII, and gastrin for
antral-restricted atrophy or gastritis. Despite of regulatory role of
gastrin in acid secretion, in contrary with our results and an earlier
study, the majority of validation studies reported inadequate
ability of gastrin [5,18,22] in fundic atrophy assessment. One
explanation might be the existence of more than one cutoff point
for G-17 particularly in presence of H. pylori infection. From our
data, G-17.40 pmol/l distinguished a group of fundic atrophy in
Table 2. Screening characteristics of PGI and PGI/PGII ratio for diagnosis of fundic atrophy and nonatrophic pangastritis.
Cutoff valueSensitivity (95% CI)Specificity (95% CI) PPVNPV AUC (95% CI)
PGI, 56 mg/l61.9 (38.4–81.9) 94.8 (91.6–97.1)48.1 97.2 0.78 (0.68–0.89)
PGII . 11.8 mg/l40.0 (19.1–63.9) 34.0 (28.6–39.8) 4.0 89.10.37 (0.26–0.48)
PGI/PGII, 5 75.0 (51.0–91.3)91.0 (87.0–94.0) 35.7 98.10.83 (0.73–0.93)
PGI,56 and PGI/PGII,5 60.0 (36.1–80.9) 97.2 (94.6–98.8)60.0 97.2 0.79 (0.68–0.90)
G-17,2.6 or G-17.40 pmol/l 81.0 (58.1–94.6) 73.3 (67.8–78.3)18.198.1 0.77 (0.68-0-86)
PGI,56 and (G-17,2.6 or G-17.40)57.1 (31.5–76.9) 98.6 (96.5–99.6) 75.096.9 0.78 (0.67–0.89)
PGI, 56 mg/l11.5 (7.5–16.7) 97.0 (91.6–99.4) 88.9 34.80.54 (0.52–0.57)
PGII . 11.8 mg/l84.2 (75.6–90.7)45.4 (38.5–52.5) 42.9 85.50.65 (0.60–0.70)
PGI/PGII, 510.9 (5.6–18.7) 85.0 (79.4–89.6)29.266.2 0.48 (0.44–0.52)
G-17,2.6 OR G-17.40 pmol/l21.8 (14.2–31.1) 65.4 (58.5–71.8) 23.463.3 0.44 (0.38–0.49)
CI: confidence interval, AUC: area under curve, PPV: positive predictive value, NPV: negative predictive value, PGI: pepsinogen I, PGII: pepsinogen II, G-17: gastrin-17.
Table 3. Proportion of PPI use, H. pylori infection and fundic atrophy among categories generated by G-17 cutoff values.
Mean G-17(SD) pmol/l 1.4 (0.6)12.8 (9.5) 73.2(24.2)
Non user 10(25.6)39(18.3)12(21.8)
Former user13(33.4)74(34.7)13(23.6) 0.46
Current user16(41.0)100(46.9) 30(54.5)
Median PPI use duration (IQR) (month)
Former users 12 (2–36)12 (1–24) 24(12–48)0.03
Current users 3 (0.25–36)12 (1–24) 12 (2–24) 0.28
H. pylori + + (%)31(79.5.0)190 (88.8) 47 (85.4)0.26
Fundic atrophy*(%)6 (15.4) 4 (1.9)11(20)
G-17: gastrin-17, PPI: proton pump inhibitor, IQR: interquartile range.
*Fundic atrophy was defined by histology gold standard.
Serum Biomarkers and Fundic Atrophy Diagnosis
PLoS ONE | www.plosone.org4 October 2011 | Volume 6 | Issue 10 | e26957
which G-cells and their negative acid-feedback remained intact
and responsive to PPI, while G-17,2.6 pmol/l discriminated
those atrophic stomachs with reduced antral G-cell population,
damaged acid feedback, and non-responsive to PPI. However PPI
use and H. pylori infection in our study sample were prevalent and
contributed to hypersecretion of gastrin, thus we did not observe
significant difference in their proportions among the categories
with high and low cutoff values.
Compared to PGI, PGI/PGII ratio showed higher sensitivity
and PPV. Because histology examination with limited number of
biopsies is not a sensitive reference test, we believe this comparison
is inconclusive. Low prevalence of fundic atrophy also contributed
to the low PPV of the tests. Combination of G-17 and PGI
increased the clinical validity in fundic atrophy assessment by
Similar to our results, high prevalence of H. pylori infection was
reported by a population-based survey and a case-control study
from North-western Iran  . Additionally, using two
serologic methods plus histologic examination might result in
detecting higher rates of current and past H. pylori infection in our
study. Among H. pylori virulence factors, CagA antigen induces
longer immune response. We observed a clear dose-response
relationship between CagA seropositivity and severity of antral
gastritis that confirmed the concept of the virulence of CagA
antigen. The proportion of CagA seropositivity among fundic
atrophy patients did not differ from the rest of subjects. However
after excluding the marked fundic atrophy, we observed a
significant higher CagA seropositivity among the fundic atrophy
comparing the group without gastritis and atrophy. A similar
pattern was reported in a large population-based cohort study
which suggested the clearance of infection in the presence of
marked fundic atrophy  our results supported this hypothesis.
We did not observe any elevation in pepsinogen level among
male smokers. Some studies have shown that smoking increases
the PGI and PGII level, and other studies have reported that
the association between smoking and pepsinogen disappeared
when only H. pylori seropositive subjects were analysed.[43,44]
Due to the low number of H. pylori negative individuals, we were
unable to assess the pepsinogen level alterations in these groups.
Absence of referral filter and high percentage of blood donation
among consecutive participants are strengths of this study. One
expert endoscopist performed the examination based on prede-
signed protocol which helped to decrease variation in biopsy
localization. Also one expert pathologist reviewed the slides and it
lowered the inter-observer variation for reference test. Modest
sample size is one of the limitations of the study. However, it was
adequate to ensure that the calculated cutoff value meets the
requirement for minimum FPF. Moreover, since our study is
endoscopy room-based, it is plausible that indications for
endoscopy which were mostly dyspepsia symptoms, led to selection
of particular group in this study. Because majority of persons with
chronic gastritis or atrophy are completely asymptomatic, any
generalizability toward general population should be done with
In conclusion, we evaluated the accuracy of serum PGI, PGII,
G-17 and CagA antibodies in assessment of fundic atrophy
among endoscopy patients in an area with high prevalence of
CagA+ H. pylori infection and upper gastroesophageal cancer.
PGI,56 mg/l, PGI/PGII,5, G-17 less than 2.8 or more than
40 pmol/l were the optimal cutoff values to distinguish fundic
atrophy in this population. PGI and PGI/PGII ratio showed
equal accuracy in fundic atrophy diagnosis. PGI and PGII
defined different steps of gastric atrophy development and
establishment. PGII.11.8 mg/l was a marker for nonatrophic
pangastritis, while PGI,56 mg/l distinguished the establishment
of fundic atrophy insensitive to occurrence of pangastritis. The
clinical use of the suggested cutoff value for PGII seems to be
limited due to its low PPV but it might be helpful to be applied in
combination with other markers in multistep screening programs.
These findings should be replicated in studies with larger sample
size and a population-based design.
Figure 2. AUCs for discrimination of fundic atrophy (dark bar), and nonatrophic pangastritis (dotted bar represents the study
population after exclusion of fundic atrophy from reference group, diagonal lined bar represents whole study population). AUC:
Area under curve, PGI: pepsinogen I, PGII. pepsinogen II, PGI/PGII ratio: pepsinogen I/pepsinogen II ratio, G-17: gastrin-17.
Serum Biomarkers and Fundic Atrophy Diagnosis
PLoS ONE | www.plosone.org5 October 2011 | Volume 6 | Issue 10 | e26957
Materials and Methods
The study was approved by the ethical committee of the
Digestive Disease Research Centre of Tehran University of
Medical Sciences, Iran and the Stockholm Regional Ethics
Vetting Board, Sweden and from all patients a written informed
consent form was obtained.
This study enrolled all dyspeptic patients over 50 years old
visiting the two major endoscopy clinics of Shohada Hospital and
Atrak Clinic, which are located in Gonbad city, the largest city in
the eastern Golestan province, and the specialized clinics for upper
gastrointestinal diseases in this area between April 2007 and
August 2008 consecutively. These two clinics are the only clinics
with gastroenterology specialists in eastern Golestan. The
spectrum of patients varied from individuals with mild to severe
gastrointestinal symptoms. Patients with a history of malignancies
were excluded. Five ml of blood were taken after an overnight fast
and serum aliquots were kept at 280uC. Information about
tobacco, antacid, and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) use was
recorded by a trained technician during a face-to-face interview.
History of PPI use during a week before endoscopy was considered
as a current use. Ever consumption of tobacco regularly for at least
6 months was defined as a user.
Endoscopies were performed by one gastroenterologist (K.A.)
according to a standard protocol. Five biopsy specimens were
taken from the mid-antrum greater curvature, mid-antrum
posterior wall, incisura angularis, mid-corpus greater curvature,
and mid-corpus posterior wall. Sections of the paraffin blocks were
stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) and Giemsa stains, and
were submitted to the Digestive Disease Research Center
laboratory for histologic examination.
All pathology slides were examined by one experienced
pathologist (M.S.), using the histologic criteria of the updated
Sydney System. The sufficiency of each specimen for
histologic examination, type of glandular mucosa, and presence
of H. pylori were recorded. Inflammation, intestinal metaplasia,
and atrophy were assessed and graded as mild, moderate or
marked. Subjects with moderate or marked atrophy were
combined and classified as atrophic group and those with mild
or no atrophy were grouped as the non-atrophic. If one or both of
the biopsies from the antrum or incisura were atrophic and the
corpus biopsies were non-atrophic, the patient was diagnosed as
with antral atrophy. If one or both of the biopsies from the corpus
were atrophic and other biopsy sites were non-atrophic, the
patient was diagnosed with fundal atrophy. When one or more
biopsies from the antrum/incisura angularis and one or both
biopsies from the corpus were atrophic, multifocal atrophy was
mentioned as a diagnosis. The same definitions were used to
describe grading and anatomic distribution of gastritis. If one or
more biopsies from the corpus and at least one biopsy from the
antrum/incisura angularis showed moderate or severe gastritis
without atrophy, the pattern was recognized as nonatrophic
Serum PGI, PGII and G-17 were measured, blind to histology
results, using enzyme linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA)
(Biohit, Finland) at the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease
Control (SMI). The coefficients of variation for PGI and PGII,
using a pool of mixed serum from healthy subjects, were 7% and
14%, respectively. H. pylori serology was evaluated quantitatively
and qualitatively, measuring cell-surface antibodies with ELISA
(IgA/IgG, Biohit, Finland) and Western Blot assays (Helico Blot
2.1, MP Biomedicals Asia Pacific Ltd, Singapore), respectively.
Patients were considered H. pylori positive if one or more of their
biopsies showed presence of H. pylori irrespective of their serology
results. They were also considered H. pylori positive if all of the
biopsies were negative but both serology tests were positive. They
were considered H. pylori negative when serology tests and
histology results were all negative. If the results of the two serology
tests were inconsistent and the histology examination was negative,
the status of the patient was recorded as unknown for H. pylori.
CagA was considered positive according to manufacturer’s
Histologic examination was used as the reference standard for
diagnosing atrophy. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC)
curves were constructed using different combinations of sensitivity
and specificity, and the areas under the curves (AUCs) and their
95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated. Linear regression
was used to evaluate the effects of covariates (age, gender, tobacco
and current PPI use) on the levels of the pepsinogens among non-
atrophic subjects. Partial AUC (PAUC) was determined at
different false positive fraction (FPF) points. Youden index
(J) was calculated to choose the optimal cutoff value (c*) that
confirmed the diagnosis of fundic atrophy or pangastritis with a
FPF#20%–30%. Stata/IC 11.0 (StataCorp LP, USA) was used
for statistical calculations.
We would like to thank Atrak clinic personnel and the pathology
laboratory of Digestive Disease Research Center, Tehran University with
a special acknowledgement to Ms Safora Kor, Ms Bita Mohammadi, and
Mr Ali Mohammadi.
Conceived and designed the experiments: WY DN MS LE RM CCA
SMD PB FI FK RS. Performed the experiments: DN KA MS ECP.
Analyzed the data: DN. Wrote the paper: DN SD.
1. Uemura N, Okamoto S, Yamamoto S, Matsumura N, Yamaguchi S, et al.
(2001) Helicobacter pylori infection and the development of gastric cancer.
N Engl J Med 345: 784–789.
2. Ye W, Held M, Lagergren J, Engstrand L, Blot WJ, et al. (2004) Helicobacter
pylori infection and gastric atrophy: risk of adenocarcinoma and squamous-cell
carcinoma of the esophagus and adenocarcinoma of the gastric cardia. J Natl
Cancer Inst 96: 388–396.
3. Ren JS, Kamangar F, Qiao YL, Taylor PR, Liang H, et al. (2009) Serum
pepsinogens and risk of gastric and oesophageal cancers in the General
Population Nutrition Intervention Trial cohort. Gut 58: 636–642.
4. Gritti I, Banfi G, Roi GS (2000) Pepsinogens: physiology, pharmacology
pathophysiology and exercise. Pharmacol Res 41: 265–281.
5. Graham DY, Nurgalieva ZZ, El-Zimaity HM, Opekun AR, Campos A, et al.
(2006) Noninvasive versus histologic detection of gastric atrophy in a Hispanic
population in North America. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 4: 306–314.
6. Vaananen H, Vauhkonen M, Helske T, Kaariainen I, Rasmussen M, et al.
(2003) Non-endoscopic diagnosis of atrophic gastritis with a blood test.
Correlation between gastric histology and serum levels of gastrin-17 and
pepsinogen I: a multicentre study. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol 15: 885–
Serum Biomarkers and Fundic Atrophy Diagnosis
PLoS ONE | www.plosone.org6 October 2011 | Volume 6 | Issue 10 | e26957
7. Adamu MA, Weck MN, Rothenbacher D, Brenner H (2011) Incidence and risk Download full-text
factors for the development of chronic atrophic gastritis: five year follow-up of a
population-based cohort study. Int J Cancer 128: 1652–1658.
8. Miki K, Ichinose M, Shimizu A, Huang SC, Oka H, et al. (1987) Serum
pepsinogens as a screening test of extensive chronic gastritis. Gastroenterol Jpn
9. McColl KE, el-Omar E, Gillen D, Banerjee S (1997) The role of Helicobacter
pylori in the pathophysiology of duodenal ulcer disease and gastric cancer.
Semin Gastrointest Dis 8: 142–155.
10. Sipponen P, Marshall BJ (2000) Gastritis and gastric cancer. Western countries.
Gastroenterol Clin North Am 29: 579–592, v-vi.
11. Correa P (1992) Human gastric carcinogenesis: a multistep and multifactorial
process–First American Cancer Society Award Lecture on Cancer Epidemiology
and Prevention. Cancer Res 52: 6735–6740.
12. Brenner H, Rothenbacher D, Weck MN (2007) Epidemiologic findings on
serologically defined chronic atrophic gastritis strongly depend on the choice of
the cutoff-value. Int J Cancer 121: 2782–2786.
13. Islami F, Kamangar F, Aghcheli K, Fahimi S, Semnani S, et al. (2004)
Epidemiologic features of upper gastrointestinal tract cancers in Northeastern
Iran. Br J Cancer 90: 1402–1406.
14. Mahboubi E, Kmet J, Cook PJ, Day NE, Ghadirian P, et al. (1973) Oesophageal
cancer studies in the Caspian Littoral of Iran: the Caspian cancer registry.
Br J Cancer 28: 197–214.
15. Semnani S, Sadjadi A, Fahimi S, Nouraie M, Naeimi M, et al. (2006) Declining
incidence of esophageal cancer in the Turkmen Plain, eastern part of the
Caspian Littoral of Iran: a retrospective cancer surveillance. Cancer Detect Prev
16. Saidi F, Sepehr A, Fahimi S, Farahvash MJ, Salehian P, et al. (2000)
Oesophageal cancer among the Turkomans of northeast Iran. Br J Cancer 83:
17. Watabe H, Mitsushima T, Yamaji Y, Okamoto M, Wada R, et al. (2005)
Predicting the development of gastric cancer from combining Helicobacter
pylori antibodies and serum pepsinogen status: a prospective endoscopic cohort
study. Gut 54: 764–768.
18. Broutet N, Plebani M, Sakarovitch C, Sipponen P, Megraud F (2003)
Pepsinogen A, pepsinogen C, and gastrin as markers of atrophic chronic
gastritis in European dyspeptics. Br J Cancer 88: 1239–1247.
19. Nardone G, Rocco A, Staibano S, Mezza E, Autiero G, et al. (2005) Diagnostic
accuracy of the serum profile of gastric mucosa in relation to histological and
morphometric diagnosis of atrophy. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 22: 1139–1146.
20. Storskrubb T, Aro P, Ronkainen J, Sipponen P, Nyhlin H, et al. (2008) Serum
biomarkers provide an accurate method for diagnosis of atrophic gastritis in a
general population: The Kalixanda study. Scand J Gastroenterol 43: 1448–1455.
21. Kang JM, Kim N, Yoo JY, Park YS, Lee DH, et al. (2008) The role of serum
pepsinogen and gastrin test for the detection of gastric cancer in Korea.
Helicobacter 13: 146–156.
22. Haj-Sheykholeslami A, Rakhshani N, Amirzargar A, Rafiee R, Shahidi SM,
et al. (2008) Serum pepsinogen I, pepsinogen II, and gastrin 17 in relatives of
gastric cancer patients: comparative study with type and severity of gastritis. Clin
Gastroenterol Hepatol 6: 174–179.
23. He CY, Sun LP, Gong YH, Xu Q, Dong NN, et al. (2011) Serum pepsinogen II:
a neglected but useful biomarker to differentiate between diseased and normal
stomachs. J Gastroenterol Hepatol 26: 1039–1046.
24. Iijima K, Koike T, Abe Y, Ara N, Uno K, et al. (2009) Alteration of correlation
between serum pepsinogen concentrations and gastric acid secretion after H.
pylori eradication. J Gastroenterol 44: 819–825.
25. Chang YW, Oh HC, Jang JY, Hwangbo Y, Lee JW, et al. (2008) IL-1beta and
IL-8, matrix metalloproteinase 3, and pepsinogen secretion before and after H.
pylori eradication in gastroduodenal phenotypes. Scand J Gastroenterol 43:
26. Abnet CC, Zheng W, Ye W, Kamangar F, Ji BT, et al. (2011) Plasma
pepsinogens, antibodies against Helicobacter pylori, and risk of gastric cancer in
the Shanghai Women’s Health Study Cohort. Br J Cancer.
27. Mardh E, Mardh S, Mardh B, Borch K (2002) Diagnosis of gastritis by means of
a combination of serological analyses. Clin Chim Acta 320: 17–27.
28. Knight T, Wyatt J, Wilson A, Greaves S, Newell D, et al. (1996) Helicobacter
pylori gastritis and serum pepsinogen levels in a healthy population:
development of a biomarker strategy for gastric atrophy in high risk groups.
Br J Cancer 73: 819–824.
29. Sipponen P, Ranta P, Helske T, Kaariainen I, Maki T, et al. (2002) Serum levels
of amidated gastrin-17 and pepsinogen I in atrophic gastritis: an observational
case-control study. Scand J Gastroenterol 37: 785–791.
30. Shimatani T, Inoue M, Iwamoto K, Hyogo H, Yokozaki M, et al. (2005) Gastric
acidity in patients with follicular gastritis is significantly reduced, but can be
normalized after eradication for Helicobacter pylori. Helicobacter 10: 256–265.
31. Imagawa S, Yoshihara M, Ito M, Yoshida S, Wada Y, et al. (2008) Evaluation of
gastric cancer risk using topography of histological gastritis: a large-scaled cross-
sectional study. Dig Dis Sci 53: 1818–1823.
32. Song HJ, Jang SJ, Yun SC, Park YS, Kim MJ, et al. (2010) Low Levels of
Pepsinogen I and Pepsinogen I/II Ratio are Valuable Serologic Markers for
Predicting Extensive Gastric Corpus Atrophy in Patients Undergoing Endo-
scopic Mucosectomy. Gut Liver 4: 475–480.
33. Shiotani A, Iishi H, Uedo N, Kumamoto M, Nakae Y, et al. (2005) Histologic
and serum risk markers for noncardia early gastric cancer. Int J Cancer 115:
34. Bodger K, Wyatt JI, Heatley RV (2001) Variation in serum pepsinogens with
severity and topography of Helicobacter pylori-associated chronic gastritis in
dyspeptic patients referred for endoscopy. Helicobacter 6: 216–224.
35. Di Mario F, Moussa AM, Cavallaro LG, Caruana P, Merli R, et al. (2004)
Clinical usefulness of serum pepsinogen II in the management of Helicobacter
pylori infection. Digestion 70: 167–172.
36. Gatta L, Di Mario F, Vaira D, Rugge M, Franze A, et al. (2011) Quantification
of serum levels of pepsinogens and gastrin to assess eradication of Helicobacter
pylori. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 9: 440–442.
37. Ricci C, Vakil N, Rugge M, Gatta L, Perna F, et al. (2004) Serological markers
for gastric atrophy in asymptomatic patients infected with Helicobacter pylori.
American Journal of Gastroenterology 99: 1910–1915.
38. Malekzadeh R, Sotoudeh M, Derakhshan MH, Mikaeli J, Yazdanbod A, et al.
(2004) Prevalence of gastric precancerous lesions in Ardabil, a high incidence
province for gastric adenocarcinoma in the northwest of Iran. J Clin Pathol 57:
39. Pakseresht M, Forman D, Malekzadeh R, Yazdanbod A, West RM, et al. (2011)
Dietary habits and gastric cancer risk in north-west Iran. Cancer Causes Control
40. Weck MN, Gao L, Brenner H (2009) Helicobacter pylori infection and chronic
atrophic gastritis: associations according to severity of disease. Epidemiology 20:
41. Gao L, Weck MN, Nieters A, Brenner H (2009) Inverse association between a
pro-inflammatory genetic profile and Helicobacter pylori seropositivity among
patients with chronic atrophic gastritis: enhanced elimination of the infection
during disease progression? Eur J Cancer 45: 2860–2866.
42. Parente F, Lazzaroni M, Sangaletti O, Baroni S, Bianchi Porro G (1985)
Cigarette smoking, gastric acid secretion, and serum pepsinogen I concentrations
in duodenal ulcer patients. Gut 26: 1327–1332.
43. Kikuchi S, Kurosawa M, Sakiyama T, Tenjin H (2002) Long-term effect of
smoking on serum pepsinogen values. J Epidemiol 12: 351–356.
44. Tatemichi M, Kabuto M, Tsugane S (2001) Effect of smoking on serum
pepsinogen I level depends on serological status of Helicobacter pylori.
Jpn J Cancer Res 92: 243–248.
45. Dixon MF, Genta RM, Yardley JH, Correa P (1996) Classification and grading
of gastritis. The updated Sydney System. International Workshop on the
Histopathology of Gastritis, Houston 1994. Am J Surg Pathol 20: 1161–1181.
46. Pepe M, Longton G, Janes H (2009) Estimation and Comparison of Receiver
Operating Characteristic Curves. Stata J 9: 1.
Serum Biomarkers and Fundic Atrophy Diagnosis
PLoS ONE | www.plosone.org7 October 2011 | Volume 6 | Issue 10 | e26957