Arrangement of myofibroblastic and smooth muscle-like cells in superficial peritoneal endometriosis and a possible role of transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGFβ1) in myofibroblastic metaplasia

Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2019 Feb;299(2):489-499. doi: 10.1007/s00404-018-4995-y. Epub 2018 Dec 7.


Purpose: Superficial peritoneal endometriotic (pEM) lesions are composed of endometrial glands and stroma, in addition to a third component-myofibroblasts and smooth muscles (SM)-like cells. The latter develops secondary to a metaplasia. In this study, we characterised the third component cells in pEM according to differentiation markers in different micro-compartments. Furthermore, a possible effect of TGFβ1 on myofibroblastic metaplasia in endometriotic epithelial cells was studied.

Methods: Seventy-six premenopausal patients were included. Peritoneal biopsies were excised from EM patients (n = 23), unaffected peritoneum (peritoneum from EM patients but without EM components, n = 5/23) and non-EM patients (n = 10). All peritoneal biopsies were immunolabeled for ASMA, calponin, collagen I, desmin, TGFß receptor 1 (R1), R2 and R3 in addition to ultrastructure examination by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) (n = 1). TGFß1 level was measured in peritoneal fluid (PF) (EM, n = 19 and non-EM, n = 13) collected during laparoscopy. Furthermore, TGFß1 effect on myofibroblastic metaplasia was studied in vitro.

Results: At the centre of pEM lesions, calponin immunolabeling outweighs the collagen I while in the periphery the reverse occurs. SM-like cells expressing desmin predominate at the periphery, while ASMA immunolabeling was detectable in all micro-compartments. Both indicate an abundance of myofibroblasts at the centre of pEM lesions and SM-like cells in the periphery. Although activated TGFß1 in PF did not differ between EM and non-EM, it inhibited the cell proliferation of the endometriotic epithelial cells and induced an upregulation in ASMA and collagen IA2 expression as well.

Conclusion: The abundance of the myofibroblasts and SM-like cells points to a myofibroblastic metaplasia in pEM. Both cells are differentially arranged in the different micro-compartments of pEM lesions, with increasing cell maturity towards the periphery of the lesion. Furthermore, TGFß1 may play a role in the myofibroblastic metaplasia of the endometriotic epithelial cells. These findings provide a better insight in the micro-milieu in EM lesions, where most of the disease dynamics occur.

Keywords: Myofibroblastic metaplasia; Peritoneal endometriosis; Smooth muscle-like cells; TGFβ1.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Endometriosis / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Metaplasia
  • Muscle, Smooth / metabolism*
  • Myofibroblasts / metabolism*
  • Peritoneal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Peritoneum / physiopathology*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1 / metabolism*


  • TGFB1 protein, human
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1