Barrett's esophagus is the precursor lesion of esophageal adenocarcinoma, whose progression follows sequential stages. However, the low progression rate and the inadequacy and subjective interpretation of histologic grading in predicting Barrett's esophagus progression call for more objective biomarkers that can improve risk prediction. We conducted a genome-wide profiling of 754 human microRNAs (miRNA) in 35 normal epithelium, 34 Barrett's esophagus, and 36 esophageal adenocarcinoma tissues using TaqMan realtime PCR-based profiling. Unsupervised hierarchical clustering using 294 modestly to highly expressed miRNAs showed clear clustering of two groups: normal epithelium versus Barrett's esophagus/esophageal adenocarcinoma tissues. Moreover, there was an excellent clustering of Barrett's metaplasia (without dysplasia) tissues from normal epithelium tissues. However, Barrett's esophagus tissues of different stages and esophageal adenocarcinoma tissues were interspersed. There were differentially expressed miRNAs at different stages. The majority of miRNA aberrations involved upregulation of expression in Barrett's esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma tissues, with the most dramatic alterations occurring at the Barrett's metaplasia stage. Known oncomiRs, such as miR-21, miR-25, and miR-223, and tumor suppressor miRNAs, including miR-205, miR-203, let-7c, and miR-133a, showed progressively altered expression from Barrett's esophagus to esophageal adenocarcinoma. We also identified a number of novel miRNAs that showed progressively altered expression, including miR-301b, miR-618, and miR-23b. The significant miRNA alterations that were exclusive to esophageal adenocarcinoma but not Barrett's esophagus included miR-375 downregulation and upregulation of five members of the miR-17-92 and its homologue clusters, which may become promising biomarkers for esophageal adenocarcinoma development.
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