Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent disease. Previous research has shown that abnormal enzymes associated with estrogen (E2) metabolism and an increased number of mast cells (MCs) in endometriomas are implicated in the pathogenesis of endometriosis. However, it remains unclear how MCs mediate the role of E2 in endometriosis. Accordingly, we investigated whether E2 was associated with the number of MCs, and the rate of degranulation, in local ovarian endometriomas, as well as the role of E2 on MCs during the pathogenesis of endometriosis. Using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and immunohistochemistry, we found that concentrations of E2, and the number and activity of MCs, were significantly higher in ovarian endometriomas than in controls, and that these parameters were correlated with the severity of endometriosis-associated dysmenorrhea. By measuring the release of hexosaminidase, we found that the rate of RBL2H3 cell degranulation increased after E2 treatment. Furthermore, activation of RBL2H3 cells by E2 was found to trigger the release of biologically active nerve growth factor, which promotes neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells and also sensitizes dorsal root ganglion cells via upregulation of Nav1.8 and transient receptor potential cation channel (subfamily V member 1) expression levels. When treated with E2, endometriotic cells could promote RBL2H3 cell recruitment by upregulating expression levels of stem cell factor, transforming growth factor-β and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1; these observations were not evident with control endometrial cells. Thus, elevated E2 concentrations may be a key factor for degranulation and recruitment of MCs in ovarian endometriomas, which play a key role in endometriosis-associated dysmenorrhea.
Supplementary Figure 1 - The aberrant expression of estrogen-metabolizing enzymes in different endometrial tissues. (A) CYP19 (B) 18BHSD2 (C) Sulfate transferase. RQ: relative quantification. Data show mean ± SEM. For all experiments, n = 3. **P < 0.01, ***P < 0.001.