Oesophageal biopsies were obtained from 74 patinets undergoing upper gastrointestinal fibreoptic endoscopy. Thirteen patients with histological evidence of inflammation had a raised alkaline phosphatase activity (2.7 +/- 1.6 nmol/mg protein/min) compared with 49 normal controls (1.2 +/- 0.68 nmol/mg protein/min: P less than 0.001). The acid phosphatase level was lower (8.4+/- 4.0 vs. 5.8 +/- 2.2 nmol/mg protein/min: P less than 0.05) and the glucuronidase activity raised (0.44 +/- 0.17 vs 0.81 +/- 0.32 nmol/mg protein/min: P less than 0.001) and their ratio declined (24.0 +/- 1.9 nmol/mg protein/min: P less than 0.001) in patients with oesophagitis. This may be due to differential secretion of membrane coating granules, a form of lysosome found isophagitis--was assessed by point counting. The volume density rose from 10.9 +/- 4.25% in normal biopsies to 46.4+/-12.5% (P less than 0.001) in oesophagitis. These results show a consistent pattern that possibly indicates an intermediate stage between the clinically, histologically, and biochemically normal oesophagus and one that is inflamed on endoscopy.
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