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Bile acid reflux is known to be associated with the development of Barrett's esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC), yet the role of specific bile acids and the mechanism behind the metaplastic changes is unclear. Here, we demonstrate that multi-layered glandular structures at the squamo-columnar junction in mice contain multiple cell lineages, which resemble the human esophageal submucosal gland ducts. Exposing mice to patient's refluxates induced expansion of multi-layered glandular structures and development of columnar metaplasia at the squamo-columnar junction. The glycine conjugated bile acids induced an intestinal type of metaplasia more typical for Barrett's esophagus. Through lineage tracing, we excluded the involvement of K5+, DCLK1+, and LGR5+ progenitor cells as the primary source in the development of the glandular metaplastic epithelium. We show that the mechanism behind development of metaplasia involves crypt fission and may be independent of stem cell proliferation. Our findings support the hypothesis that in humans, BE arises from non-squamous cells residing in submucosal gland ducts and that induction of intestinal type of metaplasia is most effectively induced by glycine-conjugated bile acids. These novel insights may lead to more effective strategies to prevent development of Barrett's esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date