Wenan QiangCenter for Developmental Therapeutics, Chemistry of Life Processes Institute, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA Division of Reproductive Science in Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Cellular mechanisms of uterine leiomyoma (LM) formation have been studied primarily utilizing in vitro models. However, recent studies established that the cells growing in the primary cultures of MED12-mutant LM (MED12-LM) do not carry causal mutations. To improve the accuracy of LM research, we addressed the cellular mechanisms of LM growth and regression utilizing a patient-derived xenograft (PDX) model, which faithfully replicates the patient tumors in situ. The growth and maintenance of MED12-LMs depend on 17β-estradiol (E2) and progesterone (P4). We determined E2 and P4-activated MAPK and PI3K pathways in PDXs with upregulation of IGF1 and IGF2, suggesting that the hormone actions on MED12-LM are mediated by the IGF pathway. When hormones were removed, MED12-LM PDXs lost approximately 60% of volume within 3 days through reduction in cell size. However, in contrast to general belief, the survival of LM cells was independent of E2 and/or P4, and apoptosis was not involved in the tumor regression. Furthermore, it was postulated that abnormal collagen fibers promote the growth of LMs. However, collagen fibers of actively growing PDXs were well aligned. The disruption of collagen fibers, as found in human LM specimens, occurred only when the volume of PDXs had grown to over 20 times the volume of unstimulated PDXs, indicating disruption is the result of growth not the cause. Hence, this study revises generally accepted theories on the growth and regression of LMs.