BACKGROUND Esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) is an aggressive disease with high mortality and an overall 5-year survival rate of less than 20%. Barrett's esophagus (BE) is the only known precursor of EAC, and patients with BE have a persistent and excessive risk of EAC over time. Individuals with BE are up to 30-125 times more likely to develop EAC than the general population. Thus, early detection of EAC and BE could significantly improve the 5-year survival rate of EAC. Due to the limitations of endoscopic surveillance and the lack of clinical risk stratification strategies, molecular biomarkers should be considered and thoroughly investigated. AIM To explore the transcriptome changes in the progression from normal esophagus (NE) to BE and EAC. METHODS Two datasets from the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) in NCBI Database (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/geo/) were retrieved and used as a training and a test dataset separately, since NE, BE, and EAC samples were included and the sample sizes were adequate. This study identified differentially expressed genes (DEGs) using the R/Bioconductor project and constructed trans-regulatory networks based on the Transcriptional Regulatory Element Database and Cytoscape software. Enrichment of Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) and Gene Ontology (GO) terms was identified using the Database for Annotation, Visualization, and Integrated Discovery (DAVID) Bioinformatics Resources. The diagnostic potential of certain DEGs was assessed in both datasets. RESULTS In the GSE1420 dataset, the number of up-regulated DEGs was larger than that of down-regulated DEGs when comparing EAC vs NE and BE vs NE. Among these DEGs, five differentially expressed transcription factors (DETFs) displayed the same trend in expression across all the comparison groups. Of these five DETFs, E2F3, FOXA2, and HOXB7 were up-regulated, while PAX9 and TFAP2C were down-regulated. Additionally, the majority of the DEGs in trans-regulatory networks were up-regulated. The intersection of these potential DEGs displayed the same direction of changes in expression when comparing the DEGs in the GSE26886 dataset to the DEGs in trans-regulatory networks above. The receiver operating characteristic curve analysis was performed for both datasets and found that TIMP1 and COL1A1 could discriminate EAC from NE tissue, while REG1A, MMP1, and CA2 could distinguish BE from NE tissue. DAVID annotation indicated that COL1A1 and MMP1 could be potent biomarkers for EAC and BE, respectively, since they participate in the majority of the enriched KEGG and GO terms that are important for inflammation and cancer. CONCLUSION After the construction and analyses of the trans-regulatory networks in EAC and BE, the results indicate that COL1A1 and MMP1 could be potential biomarkers for EAC and BE, respectively.