Background: The activity of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) is increased in inflammation and in several cancer types. We investigated the expression of COX-2, cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1), nitric oxide synthase-2 (NOS-2) and nitric oxide synthase-3 (NOS-3) in normal proliferative and secretory human endometrium, and in endometrial adenocarcinoma.
Methods: Human endometrium was collected at hysterectomy. Seven samples were in proliferative and 11 samples in secretory stage. Twelve specimens from endometrial carcinoma were collected, as well. Immunohistochemistry was used to investigate the expression of COX-1, COX-2, NOS-2 and NOS-3.
Results: COX-2 immunostaining was detected in most specimens of normal proliferative glandular epithelium (86%) and of endometrial carcinomas (92%). COX-2 staining was often detected in cancer cells on the border areas of the tumour and on the areas of invasive growth. Staining for COX-2 was seen in proliferative glands usually only in the basal layer of the endometrium. NOS-2 was usually absent or negligible in proliferative endometrial glands and also in the cancer cells of endometrial adenocarcinomas. No staining for either COX-2 or NOS-2 was seen in specimens of secretory glandular epithelium. The expression of the constitutive COX-1 and NOS-3 was negligible or weak in the glandular epithelium of proliferative and secretory endometrium and in endometrial cancer cells.
Conclusions: The expression of the inducible COX-2 but not of COX-1 is stimulated in the glandular epithelium of proliferative endometrium and in the cancer cells of human endometrial adenocarcinoma, in particular in those in the borders of carcinoma and spreading into lymphatic vessels.