Endometriosis, a disease of the macrophage

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Endometriosis, a common cause of pelvic pain and female infertility, depends on the growth of vascularized endometrial tissue at ectopic sites. Endometrial fragments reach the peritoneal cavity during the fertile years: local cues decide whether they yield endometriotic lesions. Macrophages are recruited at sites of hypoxia and tissue stress, where they clear cell debris and heme-iron and generate pro-life and pro-angiogenesis signals. Macrophages are abundant in endometriotic lesions, where are recruited and undergo alternative activation. In rodents macrophages are required for lesions to establish and to grow; bone marrow-derived Tie-2 expressing macrophages specifically contribute to lesions neovasculature, possibly because they concur to the recruitment of circulating endothelial progenitors, and sustain their survival and the integrity of the vessel wall. Macrophages sense cues (hypoxia, cell death, iron overload) in the lesions and react delivering signals to restore the local homeostasis: their action represents a necessary, non-redundant step in the natural history of the disease. Endometriosis may be due to a misperception of macrophages about ectopic endometrial tissue. They perceive it as a wound, they activate programs leading to ectopic cell survival and tissue vascularization. Clearing this misperception is a critical area for the development of novel medical treatments of endometriosis, an urgent and unmet medical need.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 9
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Issue numberJAN
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Alternatively activated macrophages
  • Angiogenesis
  • Endometriosis
  • Hypoxia
  • Iron
  • Phagocytosis
  • Tie-2 expressing macrophages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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