Uterine leiomyomas, or fibroids, are the most frequent gynecological tumors in premenopausal women with as many as 65% of women becoming clinically symptomatic. Uterine fibroids are benign myometrial tumors that produce large quantities of extracellular matrix proteins. Despite its high morbidity, the molecular basis underlying the development of uterine leiomyomas is not well understood. Domestic hens of Gallus gallus domesticus develop oviductal leiomyomas similar to those found in humans. We investigated the natural history of chicken leiomyomas, in vivo expression of protein biomarkers, and in vitro expression of ovarian steroid receptors. Based on the analysis of 263 hens, tumor prevalence, tumor number per hen, and tumor size increased as the hens aged. Immunohistochemistry for alpha-smooth muscle actin (SMA) and desmin confirmed the smooth muscle phenotype of the chicken leiomyomas. Intense collagen expression was detected in these oviductal leiomyomas by Mason's trichrome, and the tumors also showed increased expression of TGFB3 and collagen type I mRNAs. Consistent with human leiomyomas, chicken fibroids displayed increased BCL2 and estrogen (E) and progesterone (P) receptor expression. Chicken leiomyomas were dissociated for in vitro culture. Cells from explants were positive for SMA, desmin, and E and P receptors until the fourth passage. These cells also displayed a response similar to human cells when challenged with halofuginone, an antifibrotic agent. Our findings indicate that the chicken is an excellent complementary model for studies involving the pathophysiology of human uterine leiomyomas.
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Vol. 87 • No. 4