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ABSTRACT: Using orally administered sucrose as a probe of gastrointestinal permeability, this study focused on determining whether Barrett's metaplasia exhibits a paracellular transepithelial leak to small nonelectrolytes. Subjects in five separate classes (nonendoscoped, asymptomatic controls; endoscoped, asymptomatic controls; gastroesophageal reflux disease without mucosal complications; grossly visible esophagitis; and Barrett's esophagus) consumed a sucrose solution at bedtime and collected all overnight urine. Urine volume was measured and sucrose concentration was determined by high-performance liquid chromatography. Patients with Barrett's were observed to exhibit a transepithelial leak to sucrose whose mean value was threefold greater than that seen in healthy control subjects or patients with reflux but without any mucosal defect. A parallel study of claudin tight junction proteins in endoscopy biopsy samples showed that whereas Barrett's metaplasia contains dramatically more claudin-2 and claudin-3 than is found in normal esophageal mucosa, it is markedly lower in claudins 1 and 5, indicating very different tight junction barriers.
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