Genetic or enzymatic disruption of aromatase inhibits the growth of ectopic uterine tissue

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Jul;87(7):3460-6. doi: 10.1210/jcem.87.7.8683.


Aromatase P450 (P450arom) is the key enzyme for the biosynthesis of estrogen that is essential for the growth of human endometriosis, a pathology characterized by endometrium-like tissue on the peritoneal surfaces of abdominal organs manifest by pelvic pain and infertility. Surgically transplanted autologous uterine tissue to ectopic sites on the peritoneum in mice has been used as an animal model to study endometriosis. Using this mouse model, we evaluated the roles of the P450arom gene and aromatase enzyme activity in the growth of endometriosis represented by ectopic uterine tissues in mice. Endometriosis was induced surgically in the following groups of mice: 1) untreated transgenic mice with disrupted P450arom gene (ArKO); 2) ArKO mice treated with systemic estrogen; 3) untreated wild-type (WT) mice; 4) WT mice treated with estrogen; 5) WT mice treated with the aromatase inhibitor, letrozole; and 6) WT mice treated with letrozole and estrogen. Each group contained eight mice; +/+ littermates of ArKO mice were used as WT controls. Treatment with estrogen increased the size of ectopic uterine tissues in ArKO and WT mice significantly. The ectopic uterine lesions in untreated and estrogen-treated ArKO mice were strikingly smaller than those in untreated and estrogen-treated WT controls, respectively. Systemic treatment of WT mice with letrozole significantly decreased the lesion size in a dose-dependent manner. The addition of estrogen to letrozole treatment increased the ectopic lesion size, although these lesions were significantly smaller than those in mice treated with estrogen only. As tissue controls, the effects of these conditions on normally located (eutopic) uterine tissue were evaluated. The effects of disruption of the P450arom gene and treatments with letrozole and estrogen seemed to be more profound on ectopic tissues, suggesting that ectopic tissues might be more sensitive to estrogen for growth. We conclude that both an intact P450arom gene and the presence of aromatase enzyme activity are essential for the growth of ectopic uterine tissue in a mouse model of endometriosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aromatase / genetics
  • Aromatase / physiology*
  • Aromatase Inhibitors
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Choristoma / pathology
  • Choristoma / physiopathology
  • Endometriosis / pathology
  • Endometriosis / physiopathology*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Estrogens / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Growth / drug effects
  • Letrozole
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout / genetics
  • Nitriles / pharmacology
  • Triazoles / pharmacology
  • Uterus / drug effects
  • Uterus / pathology


  • Aromatase Inhibitors
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Estrogens
  • Nitriles
  • Triazoles
  • Letrozole
  • Aromatase