This paper reviews and updates current views on gastric mucosal injury with a focus on the microvascular endothelium as the key target and the role of the anti-apoptosis protein survivin. Under normal conditions, mucosal integrity is maintained by well structured and mutually amplifying defense mechanisms, which include pre-epithelial “barrier” - the first line of defense; and, an epithelial “barrier”. Other important defense mechanisms of gastric mucosa include: continuous epithelial cell renewal, blood flow through mucosal microvessels (providing oxygen and nutrients), an endothelial microvascular “barrier,” sensory innervation, and generation of PGs, nitric oxide and hydrogen sulfide. The microvascular endothelium lining gastric mucosal blood microvessels severs not only as a barrier but is a biologically active tissue involved in many synthetic and metabolic functions. It allows transport of oxygen and nutrients, and produces prostaglandins and leukotriens, procoagulant factors, nitric oxide, endothelin, ghrelin, HSP, growth factors such VEGF, bFGF, angiopoietin 2 and others, specific types of collagen, plasminogen activator, and can also actively contract. Accumulating evidence indicates that the gastric microvascular endothelium is a critical target for injury by ethanol, NSAIDs, free radicals, ischemiareperfusion and other damaging factors. The injury - microvessel rupture, plasma and erythrocyte extravasation, platelet aggregation and fibrin deposition caused by these damaging factors - occurs early (1-5 min), precedes glandular epithelial cell injury and results in cessation of blood flow, ischemia, hypoxia and impaired oxygen and nutrient transport. As a consequence, mucosal necrosis develops. One of the main reasons for the increased susceptibility of gastric microvascular endothelial (vs. epithelial) cells to injury is reduced expression levels of survivin, an anti-apoptosis protein, which is a regulator of both proliferation and cell survival.
Keywords: Gastric mucosa, injury, microvessels, endothelium, survivin, apoptosis, anti-apoptosis, pre-epithelial “barrier”, endothelial microvascular, biologically active tissue, proliferation and cell survival