Uterine lining

Endometrium
Uterus and uterine tubes. (Endometrium labeled at center right.)
Latin tunica mucosa uteri
Gray's subject #268 1262
MeSH Endometrium
Dorlands/Elsevier Endometrium

The endometrium is the inner mucous membrane of the mammalian uterus.

Function

The endometrium is the innermost glandular layer and functions as a lining for the uterus, preventing adhesions between the opposed walls of the myometrium, thereby maintaining the patency of the uterine cavity. During the menstrual cycle or estrous cycle, the endometrium grows to a thick, blood vessel-rich, glandular tissue layer. This represents an optimal environment for the implantation of a blastocyst upon its arrival in the uterus. The endometrium is central, echogenic (detectable using ultrasound scanners), and has an average thickness of 6.7 mm.

During pregnancy, the glands and blood vessels in the endometrium further increase in size and number. Vascular spaces fuse and become interconnected, forming the placenta, which supplies oxygen and nutrition to the embryo and fetus.

Cycle

The endometrial lining undergoes cyclic regeneration. Humans and the other great apes display the menstrual cycle, whereas most other mammals are subject to an estrous cycle. In both cases, the endometrium initially proliferates under the influence of estrogen. However, once ovulation occurs, in addition to estrogen, the ovary will also start to produce progesterone. This changes the proliferative pattern of the endometrium to a secretory lining. Eventually, the secretory lining provides a hospitable environment for one or more blastocysts. If a blastocyst implants, then the lining remains as decidua. The decidua becomes part of the placenta; it provides support and protection for the gestation.

If there is inadequate stimulation of the lining, due to lack of hormones, the endometrium remains thin and inactive. In humans, this will result in amenorrhea, or the absence of a menstrual period. After menopause, the lining is often described as being atrophic. In contrast, endometrium that is chronically exposed to estrogens, but not to progesterone, may become hyperplastic. Long-term use of oral contraceptives with highly potent progestins can also induce endometrial atrophy.[1][2]

In humans, the cycle of building and shedding the endometrial lining lasts an average of 28 days. The endometrium develops at different rates in different mammals. Its formation is sometimes affected by seasons, climate, stress, and other factors. The endometrium itself produces certain hormones at different points along the cycle. This affects other portions of the reproductive system.

Histology


The endometrium consists of a single layer of columnar epithelium resting on the stroma, a layer of connective tissue that varies in thickness according to hormonal influences. Simple tubular uterine glands reach from the endometrial surface through to the base of the stroma, which also carries a rich blood supply of spiral arteries. In a woman of reproductive age, two layers of endometrium can be distinguished. These two layers occur only in endometrium lining the cavity of the uterus, not in the lining of the Fallopian tubes:[3]

  • The functional layer is adjacent to the uterine cavity. This layer is built up after the end of menstruation during the first part of the previous menstrual cycle. Proliferation is induced by estrogen (follicular phase of menstrual cycle), and later changes in this layer are engendered by progestrone from the corpus luteum (luteal phase). It is adapted to provide an optimum environment for the implantation and growth of the embryo. This layer is completely shed during menstruation.
  • The basal layer, adjacent to the myometrium and below the functional layer, is not shed at any time during the menstrual cycle, and from it the functional layer develops.

In the absence of progesterone, the arteries supplying blood to the functional layer constrict, so that cells in that layer become ischaemic and die, leading to menstruation.

It is possible to identify the phase of the menstrual cycle by observing histological differences at each phase:

Phase Days Thickness Epithelium
Menstrual phase 1–4 Thin Absent
Proliferative phase 4–14 Intermediate Columnar
Secretory phase 15–28 Thick Columnar. Also visible are helicine branches of uterine artery

Chorionic tissue can result in marked endometrial changes, known as an Arias-Stella reaction, that have an appearance similar to cancer.[4] Historically, this change was diagnosed as endometrial cancer and it is important only in so far as it should not be misdiagnosed as cancer.

Pathological conditions

  • Endometriosis is the growth of endometrial tissue outside the uterus.
  • Asherman's syndrome, also known as intrauterine adhesions occurs when the basal layer of the endometrium is damaged by instrumentation (e.g., D&C) or infection (e.g., endometrial tuberculosis) resulting in endometrial sclerosis and adhesion formation partially or completely obliterating the uterine cavity.

Thin endometrium may be defined as an endometrial thickness of less than 8 mm. It usually occurs after menopause. Treatments that can improve endometrial thickness include Vitamin E, L-arginine and sildenafil citrate.[5]

Gene expression profiling using cDNA microarray can be used for the diagnosis of endometrial disorders.[6] The European Menopause and Andropause Society (EMAS) released Guidelines with detailed information to assess the endometrium. [7]

Additional images

References

External links

  • 43:05-15 - "The uterus, uterine tubes and ovary with associated structures."
  • 18902loa - "Female Reproductive System uterus, endometrium"
  • gnidation/role02
  • 20_01
  • Histology at utah.edu. Slide is proliferative phase - click forward to see secretory phase
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.