Endometriosis: The Role of Iron Overload and Ferroptosis

Reprod Sci. 2020 Jul;27(7):1383-1390. doi: 10.1007/s43032-020-00164-z. Epub 2020 Feb 19.


Iron is an essential element for cell survival, and iron deficiency is a known risk factor for many reproductive disorders. Paradoxically, such disorders are also seen more commonly under conditions of iron excess. Here, we focus on the problem of iron overload in women's health, using endometriosis as a model system. We propose (i) that a primary defect in endometriosis is abnormal eutopic endometrium characterized by resistance to ferroptosis, a process of iron-mediated non-apoptotic programmed cell death, which allows cells spread via retrograde menstruation to survive, implant, and establish endometriotic lesions within the abdominal cavity, and (ii) that dysregulated iron homeostasis may be critical to the subsequent pathophysiology of endometriotic lesions with localized iron overload and inflammation. We further investigate the association between endometriosis and hypercholesterolemia and suggest that an interaction between the mevalonate cholesterol biosynthetic pathway and ferroptosis signaling may provide a molecular basis to explain how it is that, in some women, endometrial tissues survive and thrive under ferroptotic pressure, colonize at ectopic sites, and expand into endometriotic lesions.

Keywords: Endometriosis; Ferroptosis; Inflammation; Iron; Reactive oxygen species.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Endometriosis / metabolism*
  • Endometriosis / pathology
  • Endometrium / metabolism*
  • Endometrium / pathology
  • Female
  • Ferroptosis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Iron Overload / metabolism*
  • Iron Overload / pathology