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Molecular characterization of Barrett’s esophagus at single cell resolution

Backgrounds & Aims: Patient with Barrett’s esophagus (BE) have an increased risk to develop esophageal adenocarcinoma and are under periodical endoscopic surveillance for malignant transformation. Pathologists distinguish between different BE stages to identify high-risk patients, but this process remains difficult as stage-specific markers are still missing. We established BE organoid cultures, applied single cell sequencing approaches to identify differences in gene expression and genomic alterations, and validated candidate genes for their predictive value on histological sections. Methods: We collected 43 epithelial biopsies from 21 patients, established organoids for the clonal expansion of matching healthy and diseased tissue from two patients to identify genomic alterations by whole genome sequencing (WGS). We performed single cell DNA-sequencing (scDNAseq) to analyse DNA alterations within biopsies from 8 patients and single cell RNA-sequencing (scRNAseq) to identify gene expression differences between BE stages from 19 patients. Candidate marker genes were then validated by RNA in situ hybridization experiments on histological resection specimen. Results: Most BE biopsies were chromosomal stable (CS) and their single base substitution (SBS) signatures were indistinguishable from the healthy control tissues. Dysplastic BE cells contained areas of chromosomal instabilities (CIN), which differed by the presence of the SBS17 signatures from biopsy-matching CS cells or patient-matching healthy control cells. Such CIN areas affected efficient clustering of the scRNAseq data. We identified two sets of marker genes (SLC5A5, PSCA, LIPF and ANPEP, CEACAM6, REG4), which distinguish columnar BE epithelium from non-dysplastic/dysplastic stages. CLDN2 allowed the distinction between dysplastic and more advanced stages as its expression level increased and spread in dysplastic BE glands. Conclusions: Molecular characterization of BE samples identified a correlation between the presence of CIN and COSMIC signature 17, and we report seven marker genes that help in distinguishing different BE stages.

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Dataset ID Description Technology Samples
EGAD00001007521 NextSeq 500 14
EGAD00001007522 Illumina NovaSeq 6000 13
EGAD00001007523 NextSeq 500 17
Publications Citations
Molecular characterization of Barrett's esophagus at single-cell resolution.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 118: 2021 e2113061118
Accurate integration of single-cell DNA and RNA for analyzing intratumor heterogeneity using MaCroDNA.
Nat Commun 14: 2023 8262