Genomic Evidence Supports the Recognition of Endometriosis as an Inflammatory Systemic Disease and Reveals Disease-Specific Therapeutic Potentials of Targeting Neutrophil Degranulation

Front Immunol. 2022 Mar 23;13:758440. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.758440. eCollection 2022.


Background: Endometriosis, classically viewed as a localized disease, is increasingly recognized as a systemic disease with multi-organ effects. This disease is highlighted by systemic inflammation in affected organs and by high comorbidity with immune-mediated diseases.

Results: We provide genomic evidence to support the recognition of endometriosis as an inflammatory systemic disease. This was achieved through our genomics-led target prioritization, called 'END', that leverages the value of multi-layered genomic datasets (including genome-wide associations in disease, regulatory genomics, and protein interactome). Our prioritization recovered existing proof-of-concept therapeutic targeting in endometriosis and outperformed competing prioritization approaches (Open Targets and Naïve prioritization). Target genes at the leading prioritization revealed molecular hallmarks (and possibly the cellular basis as well) that are consistent with systemic disease manifestations. Pathway crosstalk-based attack analysis identified the critical gene AKT1. In the context of this gene, we further identified genes that are already targeted by licensed medications in other diseases, such as ESR1. Such analysis was supported by current interests targeting the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway in endometriosis and by the fact that therapeutic agents targeting ESR1 are now under active clinical trials in disease. The construction of cross-disease prioritization map enabled the identification of shared and distinct targets between endometriosis and immune-mediated diseases. Shared target genes identified opportunities for repurposing existing immunomodulators, particularly disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (such as TNF, IL6 and IL6R blockades, and JAK inhibitors). Genes highly prioritized only in endometriosis revealed disease-specific therapeutic potentials of targeting neutrophil degranulation - the exocytosis that can facilitate metastasis-like spread to distant organs causing inflammatory-like microenvironments.

Conclusion: Improved target prioritization, along with an atlas of in silico predicted targets and repurposed drugs (available at, provides genomic insights into endometriosis, reveals disease-specific therapeutic potentials, and expands the existing theories on the origin of disease.

Keywords: drug repurposing; endometriosis; inflammatory systemic disease; neutrophil degranulation; therapeutic target prioritization.

MeSH terms

  • Endometriosis* / drug therapy
  • Endometriosis* / genetics
  • Endometriosis* / metabolism
  • Exocytosis
  • Female
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Immune System Diseases*
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases