1. Epidermal growth factor and the related peptide transforming growth factor α have been implicated in the stimulation of gastric mucosal proliferation. We assessed the immunohistochemical distribution of these peptides and their receptor, epidermal growth factor receptor, in mucosa from the antrum and body of the stomach from 28 patients. Twenty-three of the 56 biopsies were histologically normal (12 antrum and 11 body), whereas the other 33 showed varying degrees of inflammation.

2. Epidermal growth factor, transforming growth factor α and epidermal growth factor receptor had maximal density of distribution on the apical surfaces of the superficial epithelial cells, but were also expressed to a lesser extent on neck and body cells of the glandular tissue (P < 0.05). We also demonstrated that epidermal growth factor expression was greater in the epithelial cells of inflamed mucosa than in those of normal mucosa (P < 0.05).

3. We assessed mucosal proliferation by the Ki-67 labelling index. Ki-67-positive cells were found predominantly in the neck area of the glands and were more frequent in glandular antral tissue than in body glandular tissue (P < 0.05). Expression of epidermal growth factor receptor in the neck and isthmus cells had a significant correlation with the Ki-67 labelling index (P < 0.05).

4. We conclude that epidermal growth factor and epidermal growth factor receptor may be important in the adaptation of gastric mucosa to inflammation.

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