Aberrant expression of apoptosis-related molecules in endometriosis: a possible mechanism underlying the pathogenesis of endometriosis.
ABSTRACT Endometriosis, a disease affecting 3% to 10% of women of reproductive age, is characterized by the ectopic growth of endometrial tissue under the influence of estrogen. It is also becoming recognized as a condition in which ectopic endometrial cells exhibit abnormal proliferative and apoptotic regulation in response to appropriate stimuli. Apoptosis plays a critical role in maintaining tissue homeostasis and represents a normal function to eliminate excess or dysfunctional cells. Accumulated evidence suggests that, in healthy women, endometrial cells expelled during menstruation do not survive in ectopic locations because of programmed cell death, while decreased apoptosis may lead to the ectopic survival and implantation of these cells, resulting in the development of endometriosis. Both the inability of endometrial cells to transmit a "death" signal and the ability of endometrial cells to avoid cell death have been associated with increased expression of antiapoptotic factors and decreased expression of preapoptotic factors. Further investigations may elucidate the role of apoptosis-associated molecules in the pathogenesis of endometriosis. Medical treatment with apoptosis-inducing agents may be novel and promising therapeutic strategy for endometriosis.