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Papers: 18 May 2024 - 24 May 2024

2024 May 16

Hum Reprod


The role of regulatory T-cells in the development of endometriosis.


Knez J, Kovačič B, Goropevšek A


Endometriosis is a benign disease of the female reproductive tract, characterized by the process of chronic inflammation and alterations in immune response. It is estimated to affect 2-19% of women in the general population and is commonly associated with symptoms of chronic pelvic pain and infertility. Regulatory T cells (Treg) are a subpopulation of T lymphocytes that are potent suppressors of inflammatory immune response, essential in preventing destructive immunity in all tissues. In endometriosis, several studies have investigated the possible role of Treg cells in the development of the disease. Most studies to date are heterogeneous in methodology and are based on a small number of cases, which means that it is impossible to define their exact role at present. Based on current knowledge, it seems that disturbed Treg homeostasis, leading to increased systemic and local inflammation within ectopic and eutopic endometrium, is present in women who eventually develop endometriosis. It is also evident that different subsets of human Treg cells have different roles in suppressing the immune response. Recent studies in patients with endometriosis have investigated naive/resting FOXP3lowCD45RA+ Treg cells, which upon T cell receptor stimulation, differentiate into activated/effector FOXP3highCD45RA- Treg cells, characterized by a strong immunosuppressive activity. In addition, critical factors controlling expression of Treg/effector genes, including reactive oxygen species and heme-responsive master transcription factor BACH2, were found to be upregulated in endometriotic lesions. As shown recently for cancer microenvironments, microbial inflammation may also contribute to the local composition of FOXP3+ subpopulations in endometriotic lesions. Furthermore, cytokines, such as IL-7, which control the homeostasis of Treg subsets through the tyrosine phosphorylation STAT5 signalling pathway, have also been shown to be dysregulated. To better understand the role of Treg in the development of endometriosis, future studies should use clear definitions of Tregs along with specific characterization of the non-Treg (FOXP3lowCD45RA-) fraction, which itself is a mixture of follicular Tregs and cells producing inflammatory cytokines.