Missing proteins in the uterus tied to infertility in women with endometriosis

CHAPEL HILL, Friday, June 30, 2000 -- Proteins missing from cells lining the wombs of women with endometriosis may help explain their infertility, according to findings from a study headed by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientist.

The findings published in the July 1 issue of the medical journal Fertility and Sterility could add important clues to the link between infertility and endometriosis -- a link that has been controversial. The research suggests that the cellular proteins alphav-beta3 and leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) may serve as biomarkers for identifying women whose infertility is linked to their endometriosis and is most likely reversible with treatment.

In endometriosis, fragments of the uterine lining -- the endometrium -- implant elsewhere in the pelvis, such as on the vagina, ovaries, cervix, bladder and rectum. The condition exists in up to 40 percent of women with infertility, but the link between minimal or mild endometriosis and infertility remains unclear. As many as half of women with endometriosis will become pregnant without any treatment for the condition. Moreover, studies on the adverse effects of endometriosis on pregnancy rates have yielded conflicting results.

The new study headed by Dr. Bruce A. Lessey, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the UNC-CH School of Medicine, suggests that a reduction of the proteins in question may interfere with embryo implantation in the uterine lining. Alphav-beta3 and LIF are present in uterine cells around day 20 of the typical 28-day menstrual cycle, suggesting they play an important role in the embryo's subsequent attachment to the uterine lining.

Lessey, a member of the department's reproductive endocrinology and infertility division, had previously identified alphav-beta 3 as one of a family of "cell adhesion" glycoproteins called integrins that may be vital to pregnancy. LIF recently was shown by study co-author Dr. Colin L. Stewart t

Contact: Leslie H. Lang
University of North Carolina School of Medicine

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