A Role for Progesterone-Regulated sFRP4 Expression in Uterine Leiomyomas

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Abstract

Context:

Despite progesterone's key role in uterine smooth muscle tumorigenesis, the mechanisms by which it promotes the growth of uterine leiomyomas remain poorly understood.

Objective:

The aim of this study was to identify gene products mediating the effects of progesterone in uterine leiomyomas.

Design:

Gene expression profiling was used to identify putative progesterone-regulated genes differentially expressed in uterine leiomyomas, which were then studied in vitro.

Methods:

Gene expression was comprehensively profiled with the Illumina WG BeadChip (version 2.6) and analyzed with a bioinformatic algorithm that integrates known protein-protein interactions. Genomic binding sites for progesterone receptor (PR) were interrogated by chromatin immunoprecipitation—quantitative polymerase chain reaction (ChIP-qPCR). Small interfering RNA was used to study gene function in primary cell lines.

Results:

Our analyses identified secreted Frizzled-related protein 4 (sFRP4) as a key gene product functionally linked to PR activation whose expression was 2.6 times higher in leiomyomas than myometrium (n = 26, P < 0.01) and 2.5 times higher during the proliferative phase of the menstrual cycle (n = 26, P < 0.01). Direct binding between PR and sFRP4 promoter was observed by ChIP-qPCR. Robust overexpression of sFRP4 was also observed in primary cultures derived from leiomyoma. Progesterone preferentially inhibited sFRP4 expression and secretion in leiomyoma cultures in a dose-dependent manner sensitized by estradiol. Knockdown of sFRP4 inhibited proliferation and apoptosis in primary cultures of both myometrium and leiomyoma.

Conclusions:

Overexpression of sFRP4 is a robust, progesterone-regulated feature of leiomyomas that increases smooth muscle proliferation. More work is needed to elucidate how progesterone's ability to modulate sFRP4 expression contributes to uterine smooth muscle tumorigenesis.

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