Endometriosis is characterized by the abnormal presence of endometrium outside of the uterus, resulting in pelvic pain and infertility. The leucine-rich repeat-containing G protein-coupled receptor 5 (LGR5) has been postulated to be a marker of stem cells in the endometrium. However, LGR5⁺ cells have a macrophage-like phenotype in this tissue, so it is unclear what role LGR5⁺ cells actually play in the endometrium. Macrophages serve an important function in the endometrium to maintain fertility, while LGR5⁺ cells generally have a role in tumor progression and are involved in invasion in some cancers. We sought to determine whether LGR5⁺ cells vary across the menstrual cycle in women with endometriosis and whether there are implications for LGR5 in the aggressiveness of endometriosis and reproductive outcomes. We performed immunofluorescence, flow cytometry, and primary culture in vitro experiments on eutopic and ectopic endometrium from healthy and endometriosis patients and observed that neither LGR5⁺ cells nor LGR5 expression varied throughout the cycle. Interestingly, we observed that LGR5⁺ cell percentage overexpressing CD163 (anti-inflammatory marker) was higher in healthy endometrium, suggesting that in endometriosis, endometrium presents a more pro-inflammatory phenotype that likely leads to poor obstetric outcomes. We also observed higher levels of LGR5⁺ cells in ectopic lesions compared to eutopic endometrium and specifically in deep infiltrating endometriosis, indicating that LGR5 could be involved in progression and aggressiveness of the disease.
Keywords: LGR5; endometriosis; endometrium; macrophages; menstrual cycle.