Pathogenesis of Human Adenomyosis: Current Understanding and Its Association with Infertility

J Clin Med. 2022 Jul 13;11(14):4057. doi: 10.3390/jcm11144057.


The aim of this review article was to summarize our current understanding on the etiologies and pathogenesis of human adenomyosis and to clarify the relative association between adenomyosis and infertility. The exact pathogenesis of adenomyosis is still elusive. Among different reported concepts, direction invagination of gland cells from the basalis endometrium deep into myometrium is the most widely accepted opinion on the development of adenomyosis. According to this concept, endometrial epithelial cells and changed fibroblasts, abnormally found in the myometrium in response to repeated tissue injury and/or disruption at the endometrium-myometrium interface (EMI), elicit hyperplasia and hypertrophy of the surrounding smooth muscle cells. In this review, a comprehensive review was performed with a literature search using PubMed for all publications in English and Japanese (abstract in English), related to adenomyosis and infertility, from inception to April 2021. As an estrogen-regulated factor, hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) exhibits multiple functions in endometriosis, a disease commonly believed to arise from the functionalis endometrium. As a mechanistic basis of gland invagination, we investigated the role of HGF, either alone or in combination with estrogen, in the occurrence of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in adenomyosis. Aside from microtrauma at the EMI, metaplasia of displaced Müllerian remnants, differentiation of endometrial stem/progenitor cells within the myometrium and somatic mutation of some target genes have been put forward to explain how adenomyosis develops. In addition, the possible role of microRNAs in adenomyosis is also discussed. Besides our knowledge on the conventional classification (focal and diffuse), two recently proposed classifications (intrinsic and extrinsic) of adenomyosis and the biological differences between them have been described. Although the mechanistic basis is unclear, the influence of adenomyosis on fertility outcome is important, especially considering the recent tendency to delay pregnancy among women. Besides other proposed mechanisms, a recent transmission election microscopic (TEM) study indicated that microvilli damage and an axonemal alteration in the apical endometria of human adenomyosis, in response to endometrial inflammation, may be involved in negative fertility outcomes. We present a critical analysis of the literature data concerning the mechanistic basis of infertility in women with adenomyosis and its impact on fertility outcome.

Keywords: HGF; Müllerian remnants; adenomyosis; classification; epithelial-mesenchymal transition; estrogen; infertility; microRNAs; pathogenesis; somatic mutation; stem/progenitor cells.

Publication types

  • Review