Expression and function of the follicle-stimulating hormone receptor (FSHR) in females were long thought to be limited to the ovary. Here, however, we identify extragonadal FSHR in both the human female reproductive tract and the placenta, and test its physiological relevance in mice. We show that in nonpregnant women FSHR is present on: endothelial cells of blood vessels in the endometrium, myometrium, and cervix; endometrial glands of the proliferative and secretory endometrium; cervical glands and the cervical stroma; and (at low levels) stromal cells and muscle fibers of the myometrium. In pregnant women, placental FSHR was detected as early as 8-10 wk of gestation and continued through term. It was expressed on: endothelial cells in fetal portions of the placenta and the umbilical cord; epithelial cells of the amnion; decidualized cells surrounding the maternal arteries in the maternal decidua; and the stromal cells and muscle fibers of the myometrium, with particularly strong expression at term. These findings suggest that FSHR expression is upregulated during decidualization and upregulated in myometrium as a function of pregnancy. The presence of FSHR in the placental vasculature suggests a role in placental angiogenesis. Analysis of genetically modified mice in which Fshr is lacking in fetal portions of the placenta revealed adverse effects on fetoplacental development. Our data further demonstrate FSHB and CGA mRNAs in placenta and uterus, consistent with potential local sources of FSH. Collectively, our data suggest heretofore unappreciated roles of extragonadal FSHR in female reproductive physiology.
Abstract STUDY QUESTION Do platelets play any role in the development of adenomyosis? SUMMARY ANSWER As in endometriosis, adenomyotic lesions show significantly increased platelet aggregation, increased expression of transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1, phosphorylated Smad3, markers of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and fibroblast-to-myofibroblast transdifferentiation (FMT), and smooth muscle metaplasia (SMM), in conjunction with increased fibrosis as compared with normal endometrium. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY Both EMT and FMT are known to play vital roles in fibrogenesis in general and in endometriosis in particular. EMT has been implicated in the development of adenomyosis. SMM is universally seen in endometriosis and also in adenomyosis, and is correlated positively with the extent of fibrosis. However, there has been no published study on the role of platelets in fibrogenesis in adenomyosis, even though adenomyotic lesions undergo repeated cycles of tissue injury and repair, which suggests the involvement of platelets and their possible roles in fibrogenesis. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION Cross-sectional studies of ectopic endometrial and control endometrial tissue samples from three sets of women with and without adenomyosis (n= 34 and 20, 12 and 10, and 8 and 8, respectively) were carried out from 2014 to 2015. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS Immunohistochemistry analysis of ectopic endometrial tissues from women with (n= 34) and without (n= 20) adenomyosis with respect to biomarkers of EMT, FMT and highly differentiated smooth muscle cells as well as TGF-β1, phosphorylated Smad3, markers of proliferation, angiogenesis and extracellular matrix (ECM) deposits. Masson trichrome staining, Van Gieson staining and Pico-Sirius staining were performed to evaluate and quantify the extent of fibrosis in lesions. Progesterone receptor isoform B (PR-B) staining also was performed. In addition, CD42b-positive platelets in ectopic (n= 12) and control (n= 10) endometrium were counted by confocal microscopy and compared. The protein expression levels of TGF-β1 and phosphorylated Smad3 in both ectopic (n= 8) and control (n= 8) endometrium were measured by western blot analysis. Immunofluorescent staining of both platelets and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) was also performed for adenomyotic tissue samples (n= 10). MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE Adenomyotic lesions had a significantly higher extent of platelet aggregation and increased staining for TGF-β1 and phosphorylated Smad3 (both P-values <0.001 versus control). In addition, E-cadherin staining was decreased while vimentin staining in adenomyotic epithelial cells was increased, along with increased staining of proliferating cell nuclear antigen, vascular endothelial growth factor and CD31 (all P-values <0.001), markers of proliferation and angiogenesis. Staining for α-SMA, a marker for myofibroblast, desmin, smooth muscle myosin heavy chain and oxytocin receptor was significantly increased in adenomyotic lesions versus control, concomitant with increased staining of collagen I and lysyl oxidase (all P-values <0.001). Histochemistry analysis indicates that the extent of fibrosis is high in adenomyotic lesions (P < 0.001), and the extent appeared to correlate negatively with the microvessel density (P < 0.05). PR-B staining was significantly decreased in adenomyotic lesion as compared with control endometrium (P < 0.001). Platelets and HGF were co-localized mostly in the stromal component of adenomyotic lesions, near the glandular epithelium. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION The results are limited by the cross-sectional nature of the study and the use of histochemistry and immunohistochemistry analyses only, but nonetheless is a validation of our previous finding in mouse experiments. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS The data presented are consistent with the notion that platelet-induced activation of the TGF-β/Smad signaling pathway may be a driving force in EMT, FMT and SMM in the development of adenomyosis, leading to fibrosis. This study provides the first piece of evidence that adenomyotic lesions are wounds that undergo repeated injury and healing, and, as such, platelets play critical roles in the development of adenomyosis by promoting proliferation, angiogenesis, increasing ECM deposits, and SMM, resulting in fibrosis. Platelets may also be involved in uterine hyperactivity and myometrial hyperinnervation. Our results provide one explanation as to why adenomyosis is a challenge for medical treatment, and shed new light onto the pathophysiology of adenomyosis. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTERESTS Support for data collection and analysis was provided by grants from the National Science Foundation of China. None of the authors has anything to disclose.
While there is a growing realization that the origins of major obstetrical complications associated with defective deep placentation, such as pre-term labour, fetal growth restriction and pre-eclampsia, may lie in the very early pregnancy events, the underlying mechanisms are not understood. Impaired deep placentation is foremost a vascular pathology, characterized by a lack of endovascular trophoblast invasion and remodelling of a segment of the spiral arteries embedded within the inner myometrium of the uterus. Outside pregnancy, the inner myometrium represents a highly specialized, hormone-dependent structure, termed the junctional zone (JZ), which plays an integral part in the implantation process. The JZ changes with age and is disrupted in several reproductive disorders, such as endometriosis and adenomyosis, which in turn may account for the increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcome. Unlike the endometrium, the myometrial JZ is not readily accessible to biochemical or molecular studies, yet its structure and function can be assessed using imaging techniques, such as high-resolution ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging. Thus, non-invasive assessment of the JZ prior to conception may turn out to be useful in identifying those women at risk of major obstetrical complications.
The pseudocapsule (PC) of the uterine leiomyoma (UL) is an anatomic entity that surrounds the myoma separating it from the myometrium (UM). Although a number of microarray experiments have identified differences in gene expression profile in the UL when compared with the UM, there is a lack of systematic studies on the PC. In this study, quantitative RT-PCR analysis was performed on 18 matched PC, UL and UM specimens and results showed that the PC displays a specific gene expression profile. The low expression level of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-2), a fibroid specific marker, that we found in the PC and the UM when compared with the UL, clearly indicates that the PC is in structural continuity with the UM. However, the significant increase in endoglin expression level in PC with respect to the UL and UM indicates that an active neoangiogenesis is present in PC. Conversely, other angiogenic factors such as von Willebrand factor (vWF) and vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) seem to have little influence on the PC angiogenesis. Because the endoglin is preferentially expressed in proliferating endothelial cells, whereas the vWF and VEGF-A are preferentially expressed in preexisting endothelial cells, our idea is that the angiogenic activity in the PC is linked to wound healing. The angiogenic activity is also sustained by intermediate expression level of cystein-rich angiogenesis inducer 61, connective tissue growth factor and collagen 4α2 genes all involved in the neoangiogenesis, that we detected in the PC. Taken together our data demonstrate that the specific expression pattern observed in the PC could be the response of the uterine wall's smooth cells to the tension imposed by the tumor. As a consequence, a neovascular structure is generated involving regenerative processes. For these reasons, we suggest that the laparoscopic intracapsular myomectomy (LIM), a new surgical technique that preserves the PC during the UL removal, should always be preferred, to favor a faster and proper uterine healing.
Abstract STUDY QUESTION Are there any phenotypic and structural/architectural changes in the vessels of endometrium and superficial myometrium during the normal menstrual cycle in healthy women and those with heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB)? SUMMARY ANSWER Spatial and temporal differences in protein levels of endothelial cell (EC) markers and components of the extracellular matrix (ECM) were detected across the menstrual cycle in healthy women and these are altered in HMB. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY HMB affects 30% of women of reproductive age with ~50% of cases being idiopathic. We have previously shown that the differentiation status of endometrial vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) is altered in women with HMB, suggesting altered vessel maturation compared to controls. Endometrial arteriogenesis requires the co-ordinated maturation not only of the VSMCs but also the underlying ECs and surrounding ECM. We hypothesized that there are spatial and temporal patterns of protein expression of EC markers and vascular ECM components in the endometrium across the menstrual cycle, which are altered in women with HMB. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION Biopsies containing endometrium and superficial myometrium were taken from hysterectomy specimens from both healthy control women without endometrial pathology and women with subjective HMB in the proliferative (PP), early secretory (ESP), mid secretory (MSP) and late secretory (LSP) phases (N = 5 for each cycle phase and subject group). Samples were fixed in formalin and embedded in paraffin wax. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS Serial sections (3μm thick) were immunostained for EC markers (factor VIII related antigen (F8RA), CD34, CD31 and ulex europaeus-agglutinin I (UEA-1) lectin), structural ECM markers (osteopontin, laminin, fibronectin and collagen IV) and for Ki67 to assess proliferation. Immunoreactivity of vessels in superficial myometrium, endometrial stratum basalis, stratum functionalis and luminal region was scored using either a modified Quickscore or by counting the number of positive vessels. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE In control samples, all four EC markers showed a dynamic expression pattern according to the menstrual cycle phase, in both endometrial and myometrial vessels. EC protein marker expression was altered in women with HMB compared with controls, especially in the secretory phase in the endometrial luminal region and stratum functionalis. For example, in the LSP expression of UEA-1 and CD31 in the luminal region decreased in HMB (mean quickscore: 1 and 5, respectively) compared with controls (3.2 and 7.4, respectively) (both P = 0.008), while expression of F8RA and CD34 increased in HMB (1.4 and 8, respectively) compared with controls (0 and 5.8, respectively) (both P = 0.008). There was also a distinct pattern of expression of the vascular structural ECM protein components osteopontin, laminin, fibronectin and collagen IV in the superficial myometrium, stratum functionalis and stratum basalis during the menstrual cycle, which was altered in HMB. In particular, compared with controls, osteopontin expression in HMB was higher in stratum functionalis in the LSP (7.2 and 11.2, respectively P = 0.008), while collagen IV expression was reduced in stratum basalis in the MSP (4.6 and 2.8, respectively P = 0.002) and in stratum functionalis in the ESP (7 and 3.2, respectively P = 0.008). LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION The protein expression of vascular EC markers and ECM components was assessed using a semi-quantitative approach in both straight and spiral arterioles. In our hospital, HMB is determined by subjective criteria and levels of blood loss were not assessed. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS Variation in the protein expression pattern between the four EC markers highlights the importance of choice of EC marker for investigation of endometrial vessels. Differences in expression of the different EC markers may reflect developmental stage dependent expression of EC markers in endometrial vessels, and their altered expression in HMB may reflect dysregulated vascular development. This hypothesis is supported by altered expression of ECM proteins within endometrial vessel walls, as well as our previous data showing a dysregulation in VSMC contractile protein expression in the endometrium of women with HMB. Taken together, these data support the suggestion that HMB symptoms are associated with weaker vascular structures, particularly in the LSP of the menstrual cycle, which may lead to increased and extended blood flow during menstruation. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S) This study was funded by Wellbeing of Women (RG1342) and Newcastle University. There are no competing interests to declare. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER Not applicable.
Abstract Endometriosis and adenomyosis are characterized by the presence of ectopic endometrium, but are also associated with functional and structural changes in the eutopic endometrium and inner myometrium. Alterations in the inner myometrium occurring in women with endometriosis and adenomyosis may be at the root of a defective remodelling of the myometrial spiral arteries from the onset of decidualization and result in vascular resistance and increased risk of defective deep placentation. The association of major obstetrical syndromes and different types of defective remodelling of the myometrial spiral arteries has been well documented. The possibility of a link between both endometriosis and adenomyosis and some major obstetric syndromes remains controversial because of at least two factors: first, changes of the inner myometrium are frequently present in women with endometriosis but the diagnosis requires high-resolution imaging such as magnetic resonance which is not routinely performed and second, patients with endometriosis are frequently subjected to prolonged hormone suppressive therapy. Indeed, there is evidence that pre-treatment with a Gonadotropin Releasing-Hormone analogue can improve the uterine microenvironment and implantation rate following IVF in infertile patients with endometriosis.
Background Arteriovenous malformation is a short circuit between an organ’s arterial and venous circulation. Arteriovenous malformations are classified as congenital and acquired. In the uterus, they may appear after curettage, cesarean delivery, and myomectomy among others. Their clinical feature is usually vaginal bleeding, which may be severe, if curettage is performed in unrecognized cases. Sonographically on 2-dimensional grayscale ultrasound scanning, the pathologic evidence appears as irregular, anechoic, tortuous, tubular structures that show evidence of increased vascularity when color Doppler is applied. Most of the time they resolve spontaneously; however, if left untreated, they may require involved treatments such as uterine artery embolization or hysterectomy. In the past, uterine artery angiography was the gold standard for the diagnosis; however, ultrasound scanning has diagnosed successfully and helped in the clinical management. Recently, arteriovenous malformations have been referred to as enhanced myometrial vascularities. Objectives The purpose of this study was to evaluate the role of transvaginal ultrasound scanning in the diagnosis and treatment of acquired enhanced myometrial vascularity/arteriovenous malformations to outline the natural history of conservatively followed vs treated lesions. Methods This was a retrospective study to assess the presentation, treatment, and clinical pictures of patients with uterine Enhanced myometrial vascularity/arteriovenous malformations that were diagnosed with transvaginal ultrasound scanning. We reviewed both (1) ultrasound data (images, measured dimensions, and Doppler blood flow that were defined by its peak systolic velocity and (2) clinical data (age, reproductive status, clinical presentation, inciting event or procedure, surgical history, clinical course, time intervals that included detection to resolution or detection to treatment, and treatment rendered). The diagnostic criteria were “subjective” with a rich vascular network in the myometrium with the use of color Doppler images and “objective” with a high peak systolic velocity of ≥20 cm/sec in the vascular web. Statistical analysis was performed and coded with statistical software where necessary. Results Twenty-seven patients met the diagnostic criteria of uterine enhanced myometrial vascularity/arteriovenous malformation. Mean age was 31.8 years (range, 18-42 years). Clinical diagnoses of the patients included 10 incomplete abortions, 6 missed abortions, 5 spontaneous complete abortions, 5 cesarean scar pregnancies, and 1 molar pregnancy. Eighty-nine percent of patients had bleeding (n = 24/27), although 1 patient was febrile, and 2 patients were asymptomatic. Recent surgical procedures were performed in 55.5% patients (15/27) that included curettage (n = 10), cesarean deliveries (n = 5), or both (n = 1); 4 patients had a remote history of uterine surgery that included myomectomy. Treatment was varied and included expectant treatment alone in 48% of the patients with serial ultrasound scans and serum human chorionic gonadotropin until resolution (n = 13/27 patients), uterine artery embolization (29.6%; 8/27 patients), methotrexate administration (22.2%; 6/27 patients), hysterectomy (7.4%; 2/27 patients), and curettage (3.7%; 1/27 patients). Three patients required a blood transfusion. Of the 9 patients whose condition required embolization, the conditions of 7 patients resolved after the procedure although 1 patient’s condition required operative hysteroscopy and 1 patient’s condition required hysterectomy for intractable bleeding. Average peak systolic velocity after embolization in the 9 patients was 85.2 cm/sec (range, 35-170 cm/sec); the average peak systolic velocity of the 16 patients with spontaneous resolution was 58.5 cm/sec (range, 23-90 cm/sec). Conclusions Acquired enhanced myometrial vascularity/arteriovenous malformations occurred after unsuccessful pregnancies or treatment procedures that included uterine curettage, cesarean delivery, or cesarean scar pregnancy. Triage of patients for expectant treatment vs intervention with uterine artery embolization based on their clinical status, which was supplemented by objective measurements of blood velocity measurement in the arteriovenous malformation, appears to be a good predictor of outcome. Ultrasound evaluation of patients with early pregnancy failure and persistent bleeding should be considered for evaluation of a possible enhanced myometrial vascularity/arteriovenous malformation.
STUDY QUESTION What are the in vitro effects of estrogen receptor β (ERβ) activation on the function of endothelial cells (ECs) from different vascular beds: human endometrial ECs (HEECs; endometrium), uterine myometrial microvascular ECs (UtMVECs; myometrium) and human umbilical vein ECs (HUVECs)? SUMMARY ANSWER Studies conducted in vitro demonstrate that the ERβ agonist 2,3-bis(4-hydroxy-phenyl)-propionitrile (DPN) has EC type-specific effects on patterns of gene expression and network formation. Identification of a key role for the transcription factor Sp1 in ERβ-dependent signaling in uterine ECs offers new insights into cell-specific molecular mechanisms of estrogen action in the human uterus. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY Estrogens, acting via ERs (ERα and ERβ), have important, body-wide impacts on the vasculature. The human uterus is an estrogen target organ, the endometrial lining of which exhibits physiological, cyclical angiogenesis. In fixed tissue sections, human endometrial ECs are immunopositive for ERβ. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION Cells were treated with a vehicle control or the ERβ agonist, DPN, for 2 h or 24 h (n = 5) followed by gene expression analysis. Functional assays were analyzed after a 16 h incubation with ligand (n = 5). PARTICIPANT/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS Analysis of DPN-treated ECs using Taqman gene array cards focused on genes involved in angiogenesis and inflammation identified cell type-specific ERβ-dependent changes in gene expression, with validation using qPCR and immunohistochemistry. Molecular mechanisms involved in ERβ signaling were investigated using bioinformatics, reporter assays, immunoprecipitation, siRNA and a specific inhibitor blocking Sp1-binding sites. The endometrium and myometrium from women with regular menses were used to validate the protein expression of candidate genes. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE HEECs and UtMVECs were ERβ+/ERα−. Treatment of ECs with DPN had opposite effects on network formation: a decrease in network formation in HEECs (P ≤ 0.001) but an increase in UtMVECs (P ≤ 0.05). Genomic analysis identified opposite changes in ERβ target gene expression with only three common transcripts (HEY1, ICAM1, CASP1) in all three ECs; a unique profile was observed for each. An important role for Sp1 was identified, consistent with the regulation of ERβ target genes via association with the transcription factor (‘tethered’ mechanism). LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION The study was mainly carried out in vitro using ECs of which one type was immortalized. Although the analysis of the protein expression of candidate genes was carried out using intact tissue samples from patients, investigations into in vivo angiogenesis were not carried out. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS These results have implications for our understanding of the mechanisms responsible for ERβ-dependent changes in EC gene expression in hormone-dependent disorders. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETEING INTEREST(S) The study was funded by a Medical Research Council Programme Grant. E.G. is the recipient of an MRC Career Development Fellowship. The authors have nothing to disclose.