Myostatin follistatin and activin type II receptors are highly expressed in adenomyosis

Adenomyosis highly expresses myostatin, follistatin and activin A, as well as activin receptors (ActRIIa and ActRIIb).


Patrizia Carrarelli, Ph.D., Chih-Fen Yen, M.D., Felice Arcuri, Ph.D., Lucia Funghi, Ph.D., Claudia Tosti, Ph.D., Tzu-Hao Wang, M.D., Joseph S. Huang, M.D., Ph.D., Felice Petraglia, M.D.

Volume 104, Issue 3, Pages 744-752



To evaluate the expression pattern of activins and related growth factor messenger RNA (mRNA) levels in adenomyotic nodule and in their endometrium.


Prospective study.


University hospital.


Symptomatic premenopausal women scheduled to undergo hysterectomy for adenomyosis.


Samples from adenomyotic nodules and homologous endometria were collected. Endometrial tissue was also obtained from a control group.

Main Outcome Measure(s):

Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis and immunohistochemical localization of activin-related growth factors (activin A, activin B, and myostatin), binding protein (follistatin), antagonists (inhibin-╬▒, cripto), and receptors (ActRIIa, ActRIIb) were performed.


Myostatin mRNA levels in adenomyotic nodule were higher than in eutopic endometrium and myostatin, activin A, and follistatin concentrations were higher than in control endometrium. No difference was observed for inhibin-╬▒, activin B, and cripto mRNA levels. Increased mRNA levels of ActRIIa and ActRIIb were observed in adenomyotic nodules compared with eutopic endometrium and control endometrium. Immunofluorescent staining for myostatin and follistatin confirmed higher protein expression in both glands and stroma of patients with adenomyosis than in controls.


The present study showed for the first time that adenomyotic tissues express high levels of myostatin, follistatin, and activin A (growth factors involved in proliferation, apoptosis, and angiogenesis). Increased expression of their receptors supports the hypothesis of a possible local effect of these growth factors in adenomyosis. The augmented expression of ActRIIa, ActRIIb, and follistatin in the endometrium of these patients may play a role in adenomyosis-related infertility.

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