Is oxidative stress associated with the A disintegrin and metalloproteases (ADAM) metallopeptidase domain 17 (ADAM17)/Notch signalling pathway and fibrosis in the development of endometriosis?
Oxidative stress is correlated with hyperactivation of the ADAM17/Notch signalling pathway and a consequent increase in fibrosis in patients with endometriosis.
It is nowadays accepted that oxidative stress plays an important role in the onset and progression of endometriosis. Oxidative stress is able to induce the synthesis of some members of the 'ADAM' family, such as ADAM17. ADAM17/Notch signalling is dysregulated in other profibrotic and inflammatory diseases.
This was a prospective laboratory study conducted in a tertiary-care university hospital between January 2011 and April 2013. We investigated non-pregnant, younger than 42-year-old patients (n = 202) during surgery for a benign gynaecological condition.
After complete surgical exploration of the abdominopelvic cavity, 121 women with histologically proven endometriosis and 81 endometriosis-free control women were enrolled. Peritoneal fluid (PF) samples were obtained from all the study participants during surgery in order to detect advanced oxidation protein products (AOPPs) and metalloproteinase activity of ADAM17. Stromal cells from endometrial specimens (n = 8) were obtained from endometrium of control patients (Cs), and from eutopic (Es) and ectopic (Ps) endometrium of patients with deep infiltrating endometriosis (DIE) (n = 8). ADAM17, Notch and the fibrosis markers α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) and type-I collagen were assessed using immunoblotting in all the endometrial samples obtained. Additionally, fibrosis was assessed after using Notch cleavage inhibitors (DAPT and FLI-06). Notch and fibrosis were also evaluated after stimulation of stromal endometrial cells with ADAM17 purified protein, increasing concentrations of H2O2 and primary cell culture supernatants.
Patients with DIE presented higher PF AOPP and ADAM17 protein levels than controls (P < 0.01 and P < 0.05, respectively). In addition, these two markers were positively correlated (r = 0.614; P < 0.001). At the cellular level, ADAM17 activity was increased in Es and Ps compared to Cs (P < 0.001 and P < 0.01, respectively). Furthermore, Ps presented hyperactivation of Notch signalling (P < 0.05) and augmentation of fibrosis markers (P = 0.009 for α-SMA and P = 0.015 for type-I collagen) compared to controls. The use of DAPT and FLI-06 reduced both fibrosis markers in Ps but not in Cs. Stimulation with ADAM17, H2O2 and Ps supernatant culture significantly increased Notch and fibrosis in both Ps and Cs.
The control group consisted of women who underwent surgery for benign gynaecological conditions, which could lead to biases because some of these conditions may cause alterations in oxidative stress and the ADAM17/Notch pathways. The small sample size of endometrial biopsies used for each group of patients (n = 8) is a limitation of the study, and results should be interpreted with caution.
We propose a novel pathway in endometriosis pathogenesis that correlates oxidative stress, hyperactivation of ADAM17/Notch signalling and a consequent increase in fibrosis. This study suggests that Notch signalling plays a key role in the fibrotic processes that take place in ectopic lesions of patients with DIE, as already observed in other pro-fibrotic diseases.
This work was supported by grants from University Paris Descartes, INSERM and Fundación Alfonso Martín Escudero. The authors have no competing interests to declare.