Differential expression of the angiogenic factor genes vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and endocrine gland-derived VEGF in normal and polycystic human ovaries

Am J Pathol. 2003 Jun;162(6):1881-93. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)64322-2.


Angiogenesis is a key aspect of the dynamic changes occurring during the normal ovarian cycle. Hyperplasia and hypervascularity of the ovarian theca interna and stroma are also prominent features of the polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a leading cause of infertility. Compelling evidence indicated that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a key mediator of the cyclical corpus luteum angiogenesis. However, the nature of the factor(s) that mediate angiogenesis in PCOS is less clearly understood. Endocrine gland-derived (EG)-VEGF has been recently identified as an endothelial cell mitogen with selectivity for the endothelium of steroidogenic glands and is expressed in normal human ovaries. In the present study, we compared the expression of EG-VEGF and VEGF mRNA in a series of 13 human PCOS and 13 normal ovary specimens by in situ hybridization. EG-VEGF expression in normal ovaries is dynamic and generally complementary to VEGF expression in both follicles and corpora lutea. A particularly high expression of EG-VEGF was detected in the Leydig-like hilus cells found in the highly vascularized ovarian hilus. In PCOS ovaries, we found strong expression of EG-VEGF mRNA in theca interna and stroma in most of the specimens examined, thus spatially related to the new blood vessels. In contrast, VEGF mRNA expression was most consistently associated with the granulosa cell layer and sometimes the theca, but rarely with the stroma. These findings indicate that both EG-VEGF and VEGF are expressed in PCOS ovaries, but in different cell types at different stages of differentiation, thus suggesting complementary functions for the two factors in angiogenesis and possibly cyst formation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Angiogenesis Inducing Agents / genetics*
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Corpus Luteum / metabolism
  • Endothelial Growth Factors / genetics
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Hormones / genetics
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics
  • Lymphokines / genetics
  • Ovarian Follicle / metabolism
  • Ovary / metabolism*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / genetics*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / pathology
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor, Endocrine-Gland-Derived
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors


  • Angiogenesis Inducing Agents
  • Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Gastrointestinal Hormones
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Lymphokines
  • PROK1 protein, human
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor, Endocrine-Gland-Derived
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors