Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine
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This study investigates the effect of local oestrogen therapy (LET) on the expression of proteins participating in collagen/elastin biogenesis and immune markers in vaginal tissues of post-menopausal women with severe pelvic organ prolapse (POP). Vaginal biopsies were collected from the anterior vaginal wall of informed and consented 52 post-menopausal women with severe POP undergoing total hysterectomy. Twenty-nine of the 52 women were treated with LET (in the form of vaginal oestrogen cream or tablet), while the remaining 23 untreated patients served as the controls. This study was approved by Sinai Health System REB. Vaginal tissue specimens were analysed for gene and protein expression using real-time RT-PCR and Luminex assays, protein localization and immune cell infiltration were assessed by immunohistochemistry. Forty-four cytokines were detected. We found that LET application: (a) significantly increased (P < 0.05) gene and protein expression levels of extracellular matrix (ECM) structural proteins, collagen and elastin, as well as the expression of ECM maturation enzyme BMP1; (b) decreased protein expression level of ECM degradation enzymes MMP1, MMP2 and MMP3 accompanied by an increase in their tissue inhibitors, TIMP1 and TIMP4; (c) significantly increased (P < 0.05) the gene and protein expression levels of 14 vaginal cytokines involved in leucocyte infiltration, which was confirmed by immunohistochemistry. Our results indicate that LET plays an important role in the activation of immune system within the local vaginal environment, limiting the undesirable ECM degradation, which supports the strengthening of vaginal ECM in post-menopausal women, therefore resisting menopause/age-related changes and inducing urogenital tract tissue regeneration.