Investigation of the molecular mechanisms of endometrial hyperplasia

Adrienne Williams McCampbell, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


While there is considerable information on the molecular aberrations associated with the development of endometrial cancer, very little is known of changes in gene expression associated with its antecedent premalignant condition, endometrial hyperplasia. In order to address this, we have compared the level of expression of components of the IGF-I signaling pathway in human endometrial hyperplasia to their level of expression in both the normal pre-menopausal endometrium and endometrial carcinoma. We have also characterized the molecular characteristics of endometrial hyperplasia as it occurs in a murine model of hormone-dependent tumorigenesis of the female reproductive tract. There was a significant and selective increase in the expression of the IGF-I Receptor (IGF-IR) in both human hyperplasia and carcinoma as compared to the normal endometrium. The receptor was also activated, as judged by increased tyrosine phosphorylation. In addition, in hyperplasia and carcinoma there is activation of the downstream component Akt. The expression of the PTEN tumor suppressor is decreased in a subset of subjects with hyperplasia and in all of the carcinomas. The simultaneous loss of PTEN expression and increased IGF-IR activation in the hyperplastic endometrium was associated with an increased incidence of endometrial carcinoma elsewhere within the uterus. In the rodent hyperplasia, there was a significant increase in the expression and activation of Akt that appears to be attributable to a marked increase in the expression of IGF-II. Our studies have demonstrated the pathologic proliferation of both the human and rodent endometrium is linked to a marked activation of the Akt pathway. However the cause of this dysregulation is different in the human disease and the animal model. In rodents, hyperplasia is linked to increased expression of one of the ligands of the IGF-IR, IGF-II. In humans the IGF-I receptor itself is upregulated and activated. Additional activation of the Akt pathway via the suppression of PTEN activity, results in conditions that are associated with the marked increase in the probability of developing endometrial cancer. Our data suggests that increased activity of the IGF-I pathway plays the key role in the hyperproliferative state characteristic of endometrial hyperplasia and cancer.

Subject Area

Cellular biology|Oncology|Pathology

Recommended Citation

McCampbell, Adrienne Williams, "Investigation of the molecular mechanisms of endometrial hyperplasia" (2006). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3231742.