Loss of WT1 Expression in the Endometrium of Infertile PCOS Patients: A Hyperandrogenic Effect?

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In fertile patients the endometrial Wilms tumor suppressor gene (WT1) is expressed during the window of implantation. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) patients suffer from hyperandrogenemia and infertility and have elevated endometrial androgen receptor (AR) expression. WT1 is known to be down-regulated by AR. Therefore, the expression of WT1 and its targets may be altered in PCOS endometrium.


The objective of the study was to assess the expression and regulation of WT1 and selected downstream targets in secretory endometrium from ovulatory PCOS (ovPCOS) and fertile women.

Design and Patients:

Endometrial samples were obtained from 25 ovPCOS and 25 fertile patients.

Main Outcome Measure:

Endometrial expression of WT1 and selected downstream targets were assessed by immunohistochemistry and RT-PCR. The androgen effect on WT1 expression was determined in vitro by immunoblots and RT-PCR. The expression of WT1 and its targets was quantified in fertile and ovPCOS stromal cells in the presence of androgens by RT-PCR. Caspase-3/7 activity was measured to evaluate sensitivity to drug-induced apoptosis.


WT1 expression was down-regulated in secretory-phase ovPCOS endometrium. Stromal expression of Bcl-2 and p27 was higher, and epidermal growth factor receptor was lower in ovPCOS than in fertile patients. Endometrial stromal expression of WT1, Bcl-2, Bcl-2-associated X protein, and β-catenin was regulated by androgens. Apoptosis levels were reduced in ovPCOS samples and androgen-treated fertile samples.


WT1 expression is down-regulated in ovPCOS endometrium during the window of implantation. Androgens regulate the expression of WT1 and its targets during endometrial decidualization. The altered balance between WT1 and AR in the endometrium of PCOS patients may jeopardize the success of decidualization and endometrial receptivity.

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