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Douglas A Gibson, Ioannis Simitsidellis, Frances Collins, and Philippa T K Saunders

The endometrium is a complex multicellular tissue that is exquisitely sensitive to the actions of sex steroids synthesised in the ovary (endocrine system). Recent studies have highlighted a previously under-appreciated role for local (intracrine) metabolism in fine-tuning tissue function in both health and disease. In this review we have focused on the impact of oestrogens and androgens on endometrial function summarising data from studies on normal endometrial physiology and disorders including infertility, endometriosis and cancer. We consider the evidence that expression of enzymes including aromatase, sulphatase and AKR1C3 by endometrial cells plays an important role in tissue function and malfunction and discuss results from studies using drugs targeting intracrine pathways to treat endometrial disorders. We summarise studies exploring the spatial and temporal expression of oestrogen receptors (ERalpha/ESR1, ERbeta/ESR2 and GPER) and their role in mediating the impact of endogenous and synthetic ligands on cross-talk between vascular, immune, epithelial and stromal cells. There is a single androgen receptor gene and androgens play a key role in stromal-epithelial cross-talk, scar-free healing of endometrium during menstruation and regulation of cell proliferation. The development of new receptor-selective drugs (SERMs, SARMs, SARDs) has reinvigorated interest in targeting receptor subtypes in treatment of disorders including endometriosis and endometrial cancer and some show promise as novel therapies. In summary, understanding the mechanisms regulated by sex steroids provides the platform for improved personalised treatment of endometrial disorders as well as novel insights into the impact of steroids on processes such as tissue repair and regeneration.

Free access

Alison E Wallace, Douglas A Gibson, Philippa T K Saunders, and Henry N Jabbour

Endometrial adenocarcinoma is the most common gynaecological malignancy in western countries. Many of the established risk factors for developing endometrial cancer are associated with excess exposure to oestrogen unopposed by progesterone. These include nulliparity, late onset of the menopause, post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy and obesity. However, a number of risk factors also promote inflammation, another feature proposed to influence cancer development. The human cycling endometrium undergoes regular and cyclical episodes of inflammation. Moreover, hormonal and genetic changes that occur early in the development of endometrial adenocarcinoma can exacerbate the local inflammatory environment. Via alterations in the expression of local mediators and immune cell function, these may contribute to the development of endometrial cancer. This review discusses the contribution of inflammation to the initiation and progression of endometrial adenocarcinoma. Manipulation of inflammatory pathways may therefore represent a therapeutic target in endometrial adenocarcinoma.

Open access

Ioannis Simitsidellis, Arantza Esnal-Zuffiaure, Olympia Kelepouri, Elisabeth O’Flaherty, Douglas A Gibson, and Philippa T K Saunders

Selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) have been proposed as therapeutics for women suffering from breast cancer, muscle wasting or urinary incontinence. The androgen receptor (AR) is expressed in the uterus but the impact of SARMs on the function of this organ is unknown. We used a mouse model to compare the impact of SARMs (GTx-007/Andarine®, GTx-024/Enobosarm®), Danazol (a synthetic androstane steroid) and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) on tissue architecture, cell proliferation and gene expression. Ovariectomised mice were treated daily for 7 days with compound or vehicle control (VC). Uterine morphometric characteristics were quantified using high-throughput image analysis (StrataQuest; TissueGnostics), protein and gene expression were evaluated by immunohistochemistry and RT-qPCR, respectively. Treatment with GTx-024, Danazol or DHT induced significant increases in body weight, uterine weight and the surface area of the endometrial stromal and epithelial compartments compared to VC. Treatment with GTx-007 had no impact on these parameters. GTx-024, Danazol and DHT all significantly increased the percentage of Ki67-positive cells in the stroma, but only GTx-024 had an impact on epithelial cell proliferation. GTx-007 significantly increased uterine expression of Wnt4 and Wnt7a, whereas GTx-024 and Danazol decreased their expression. In summary, the impact of GTx-024 and Danazol on uterine cells mirrored that of DHT, whereas GTx-007 had minimal impact on the tested parameters. This study has identified endpoints that have revealed differences in the effects of SARMs on uterine tissue and provides a template for preclinical studies comparing the impact of compounds targeting the AR on endometrial function.