Objective: Uterine leiomyomas, the most common neoplasms of the female genital tract, are benign tumors of the uterus arising from the smooth muscle cells (SMCs) of the myometrium with an involvement of estrogen. Caveolin-1 (Cav-1), a major protein component in caveolae membrane lipid rafts, is down-regulated in several estrogen-related cancer cells, and overexpression of Cav-1 inhibits proliferation of cancer cells and vascular SMCs as well. Therefore, we hypothesize that Cav-1 is down-regulated in human uterine leiomyoma.
Results: Western blot using tissues from clinical patients showed that Cav-1 expression was significantly lower or undetectable in uterine leiomyoma compared with their matched myometrium (P < .001). This finding was confirmed by immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy. The cav-1 mRNA level in uterine leiomyomas was also significantly lower as detected by reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis (P = .001). To further study the underlying mechanism, we performed primary cell culture, and found that the expression of Cav-1 remained low in cultured leiomyoma SMCs (P = .009). Serum withdrawal did not change Cav-1 expression in leiomyoma SMCs, but increased expression in myometrial SMCs (P = .006). 17-β estradiol inhibited the expression of Cav-1 protein (P = .047) and mRNA (P = .007) in leiomyoma SMCs, whereas it stimulated expression in myometrial SMCs (P = .043). 17-β estradiol, although activating the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway in both SMCs, did not stimulate their proliferation.
Conclusion: We conclude that human uterine leiomyomas in vitro express low levels of Cav-1, which may result from estrogen inhibition. This effect of estrogen may contribute to the pathogenesis of uterine leiomyoma. Further studies in vivo are needed to verify these results.
Keywords: 17-β estradiol; caveolin-1; smooth muscle cells (SMCs); uterine leiomyoma.
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