Acid increases proliferation via ERK and p38 MAPK-mediated increases in cyclooxygenase-2 in Barrett's adenocarcinoma cells

Rhonda F. Souza, Kenneth Shewmake, Stephanie Pearson, George A. Sarosi, Linda A. Feagins, Ruben D. Ramirez, Lance S. Terada, Stuart J. Spechler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) has been linked to neoplastic progression in Barrett's esophagus. Acid exposure has been shown both to activate the MAPK pathways and to increase COX-2 protein expression in Barrett's metaplasia, but it is not known whether these effects are interrelated. We hypothesized that acid-induced activation of the MAPK pathways mediates an increase in COX-2 expression in Barrett's esophagus, and we tested this hypothesis in a Barrett's-associated adenocarcinoma cell line (SEG-1). We exposed SEG-1 cells to acidic or neutral media in the presence and absence of two MAPK inhibitors: U-0126 (an ERK inhibitor) or SB-203580 (a p38 inhibitor). We quantitated COX-2 protein levels using an enzyme immunometric assay and COX-2 mRNA levels using real-time PCR. We also determined how acid affects the activity of the COX-2 promoter and mRNA stability. Compared with SEG-1 cells exposed to neutral media, acid-exposed cells exhibited a 2.8-fold increase in COX-2 mRNA levels within 30 min. Both U-0126 and SB-203580 attenuated the acid-induced increase in COX-2 mRNA. Acid significantly increased COX-2 protein expression and promoter activity, and both of these effects were abolished by treatment with U-0126 and SB-203580. Acid exposure also stabilized COX-2 mRNA levels, an effect that was abolished by U-0126 but not by SB-203580. We conclude that acid increases COX-2 expression through activation of the MAPK pathways. Acid-induced activation of both ERK and p38 causes a significant increase in COX-2 promoter activity, and acid-activated ERK stabilizes COX-2 mRNA. These findings suggest potential mechanisms whereby acid reflux might promote carcinogenesis in Barrett's esophagus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G743-G748
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number4 50-4
StatePublished - Oct 2004


  • Barrett's esophagus
  • Cell viability
  • Messenger ribonucleic acid stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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