Cytokeratins 8, 18 and 19 are members of the cytoskeletal intermediate filament protein family. They are expressed in all simple epithelial tissues, including endometrium, and are recognised as dynamic structures that can be affected by numerous external factors. The Norplant system is a subdermal slow release levonorgestrel implant commonly used as a long-acting progestogen contraceptive. Norplant implants have been shown to have atrophie effects on endometrial epithelial and stromal cells, and cause a range of endometrial bleeding problems among users. The aim of this study is to describe changes in the immunohistochemical expression and distribution of Cytokeratins 8, 18 and 19 in endometrial epithelial cells of Norplant implants users and normal menstrual cycle controls. Endometrial biopsies were collected from 65 control normal cycle women and 37 Norplant implants acceptors. The normal menstrual cycle was classified histologically into 9 stages; one menstrual, five proliferative and three secretory. Norplant implants bleeding patterns were categorised into 6 groups according to current World Health Organisation (WHO) definitions; amenorrhoea, frequent bleeding, infrequent bleeding, irregular bleeding, "normal" bleeding, and prolonged bleeding. The tissues were fixed in formalin, embedded in paraffin, and stained imunohistochemically. Semi-quantitative scoring of the staining intensity was performed. Apical versus basal intracellular cytokeratin distribution was also evaluated. The staining intensity was significantly stronger in control endometrial tissue compared to Norplant implants tissue. In control tissues, cytokeratins were predominantly located in the apical region of epithelial cells (52% of biopsies) and in Norplant implants tissues they were predominantly distributed equally between the apical and basal portions of epithelial cells (43% of biopsies). There was no particular cytokeratin distribution pattern associated with the different stages of normal cycle or the different Norplant implants bleeding patterns. It was concluded that long-term exposure to levonorgestrel significantly reduced the cytokeratin expression in endometrial epithelial cells (P < 0.001).
- menstrual cycle