Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, named after Dr. Zollinger and Dr. Ellison - the two surgeons who first described it, is a rare endocrine disorder where there’s actually three interrelated pathologies.
First, there’s a gastrinoma, which is a gastrin-secreting tumor.
Second, the gastrinoma leads to increased gastric acid secretion from parietal cells.
Third, the excess gastric acid causes peptic ulcers.
Normally, the inner wall of the entire gastrointestinal tract is lined with mucosa, which consists of three cell layers.
The innermost layer is the epithelial layer and it absorbs and secretes mucus and digestive enzymes.
The middle layer is the lamina propria and it contains blood and lymph vessels.
The outermost layer of the mucosa is the muscularis mucosa, and it is a layer of smooth muscle that contracts and helps with the breakdown of food.
In the stomach, there are four regions - the cardia, the fundus, the body, and the pyloric antrum.
There’s also a pyloric sphincter, or valve, at the end of the stomach which closes while eating, keeping food inside for the stomach to digest.
The epithelial layer in different parts of the stomach contains different proportions of gastric glands which secrete a variety of substances.
Having said that, the cardia contains mostly foveolar cells that secrete mucus which is mostly made up of water and glycoproteins.
The fundus and the body have mostly parietal cells that secrete hydrochloric acid and chief cells that secrete pepsinogen, an enzyme that digests protein.
Finally, the antrum has mostly G cells that secrete gastrin in response to food entering the stomach.
These G cells are also found in the duodenum and the pancreas, which is an accessory organ of the gastrointestinal tract.
Gastrin stimulates the parietal cells to secrete hydrochloric acid, and also stimulates the growth of glands in the epithelial layer.