Progesterone and transforming growth factor-beta coordinately regulate suppression of endometrial matrix metalloproteinases in a model of experimental endometriosis.


Endometriosis is a benign, though aggressive, disease of the female reproductive tract that consists of endometrial stromal and epithelial cells growing at an extrauterine site. Although it is widely accepted that the majority of cases of endometriosis result from the ectopic implantation of refluxed menstrual tissue, the precise mechanisms by which this disease becomes established are not well understood. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), enzymes which are important for extracellular matrix turnover, have recently been implicated in the development of endometriosis. MMPs appear to be overexpressed in endometriotic lesions, but expression levels decrease following successful medical therapy. Intriguingly, although transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) mediates progesterone suppression of specific endometrial MMPs, this growth factor is overexpressed in women with endometriosis. In the current study, we used an established experimental model of endometriosis to explore MMP regulation by TGF-beta. Our findings indicate that blocking the action of TGF-beta opposes progesterone-mediated suppression of MMPs and blocks the ability of this steroid to prevent experimental endometriosis. However, we also show that the action of TGF-beta does not lead to a sustained suppression of MMPs as observed following progesterone treatment. Taken together, our data suggest that in the absence of a normal progesterone response, common in ectopic lesions of endometriosis, sensitivity to TGF-beta may be altered, resulting in a failure to regulate MMPs.