Androstenedione up-regulation of endometrial aromatase expression via local conversion to estrogen: Potential relevance to the pathogenesis of endometriosis

Orhan Bukulmez, Daniel B. Hardy, Bruce R. Carr, Richard J. Auchus, Tannaz Toloubeydokhti, R. Ann Word, Carole R. Mendelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Context: Up-regulation of aromatase expression in endometrial cells disseminated into the peritoneal cavity may enhance their survival via local estrogen synthesis, which may lead to endometriosis. The factors that mediate induction of aromatase in the endometrium are not well defined, but increased expression of steroidogenic factor (SF)-1 may play a role. Objective: The objective of the study was to determine whether androstenedione (A4), the predominant sex steroid in peritoneal fluid, regulates endometrial aromatase expression. Design: This was a cell/tissue culture study. Setting: The study was conducted at an academic center. Methods: Quantitative real-time PCR, HPLC, and chromatin immunoprecipitation were used in this study. Results: Treatment of cultured human endometrial explants and stromal cells with A4 (10 nM) significantly up-regulated expression of aromatase mRNA transcripts containing exon IIa at their 5′-ends. In endometrial stromal cells and the human endometrial surface epithelial (HES) cell line, induction of aromatase mRNA by A4 was associated with increased expression of SF-1. In HES cells, tritiated A4 was metabolized to estradiol, testosterone (T), dihydrotestosterone, and androstanediol. Both estradiol and T, but not nonaromatizable androgens, up-regulated aromatase and SF-1 mRNA in HES cells. Chromatin immunoprecipitation revealed that A4 enhanced recruitment of SF-1 to its response element (-136 bp) upstream of CYP19 exon IIa. This, together with the findings that both estrogen receptor antagonist, ICI 182,780, and aromatase inhibitor, fadrozole, suppressed A4 and T induction of aromatase and SF-1 mRNA, indicates that the inductive effects of A4 and T are mediated by their conversion to estrogens. Conclusions: Exposure of endometrial cells to A4 may enhance CYP19 gene expression through its aromatization to estrogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3471-3477
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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