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Endometrial vascular development in heavy menstrual bleeding: altered spatio-temporal expression of endothelial cell markers and extracellular matrix components

Lookup NU author(s): Sourina Biswas Shivhare, Dr Judith Bulmer, Barbara Innes, Dr Gendie Lash


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© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. All rights reserved. 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.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Biswas Shivhare S, Bulmer JN, Innes BA, Hapangama DK, Lash GE

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Human Reproduction

Year: 2018

Volume: 33

Issue: 3

Pages: 399-410

Print publication date: 01/03/2018

Online publication date: 04/01/2018

Acceptance date: 20/12/2017

ISSN (print): 0268-1161

ISSN (electronic): 1460-2350

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/humrep/dex378


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