Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) can progress to fibrostenosis by unclear mechanisms. Herein, we investigated gene dysregulation in fibrostenotic EoE, its association with clinical parameters and specific pathways, and the functional consequences.
Esophageal biopsies from subjects with EoE were collected across 11 Consortium of Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disease Researchers (CEGIR) sites (n = 311) and two independent replication cohorts (n = 83). Inclusion criteria for fibrostenotic EoE were endoscopic rings, stricture, and/or a history of dilation. Endoscopic, histologic, and molecular features were assessed by the EoE endoscopic reference score (EREFS), EoE Histology Scoring System (HSS), EoE Diagnostic Panel (EDP), and RNA sequencing. Esophageal endothelial TSPAN12 expression and functional effects on barrier integrity and gene expression were analyzed in vitro.
TSPAN12 was the gene most correlated with fibrostenosis (r = -0.40, P < .001). TSPAN12 was lower in fibrostenotic EoE and correlated with EREFS, EDP, and HSS (r = 0.34-0.47, P < .001). Lower TSPAN12 associated with smaller esophageal diameter (r = 0.44, P = .03), increased lamina propria fibrosis (r = -0.41, P < .001), and genes enriched in cell cycle-related pathways. IL-13 reduced TSPAN12 expression in endothelial cells. Conversely, anti-IL-13 therapy increased TSPAN12 expression. TSPAN12 gene silencing increased endothelial cell permeability and dysregulated genes associated with extracellular matrix (ECM) pathways. Endothelial cell-fibroblast crosstalk induced ECM changes relevant to esophageal remodeling.
Patients with fibrostenotic EoE express decreased levels of endothelial TSPAN12. We propose that IL-13 decreases TSPAN12, likely contributing to the chronicity of EoE by promoting tissue remodeling through fibroblast-endothelial cell crosstalk.

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