Ornithine decarboxylase activity is known to be increased in certain premalignant conditions. We determined the activity of this enzyme in mucosal biopsy specimens from 15 patients with Barrett's esophagus. Ornithine decarboxylase was greater in Barrett's mucosa than in squamous esophageal or gastric mucosa. In Barrett's mucosa from 4 patients with dysplasia, the enzyme activity was greater than in 11 patients without dysplasia (1.6 ± 0.35 vs. 0.19 ± 0.08 U/mg protein; p < 0.005). Increased ornithine decarboxylase activity in biopsy specimens of Barrett's mucosa may represent a marker for dysplasia.
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