Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), especially the gelatinases MMP-2 and MMP-9, play a crucial role in the pathogenesis of endometriosis by enabling invasion. Doxycycline is a well-tolerated antibiotic and a potent MMP-inhibitor in subantimicrobial doses.
Gelatin zymography and activity assays were used to detect latent and active MMP-2 and -9 in cell culture supernatants of immortalized epithelial (12Z) and two isolates of primary endometriotic stromal cells treated with doxycycline. The invasiveness of 12Z endometriotic cells treated with doxycycline was assessed in matrigel-coated invasion chambers. The effect on latent and active MMP-2 expression of the combination of progesterone and doxycycline was tested in 12Z.
Doxycycline significantly reduced the MMP-2 activity and pro-MMP-2 expression in 12Z and the MMP-2 and -9 activity as well as expression of pro-MMP-2 and -9 in primary endometriotic stromal cells. The percentage of 12Z cells invading through a matrigel-coated membrane was reduced to 65 and 22% of the control after treatment with doxycycline at doses of 1 μg/ml and 10 μg/ml, respectively. Furthermore, a combination of progesterone and doxycycline showed an additive effect in low doses on the reduction of MMP-2 activity and pro-MMP2 expression in 12Z endometriotic cells.
In conclusion, the MMP-inhibiting features of subantimicrobial-dose doxycycline may be further evaluated as a well-tolerable additional therapeutic approach, e.g. in combination with progestins such as dienogest, in patients with infiltrative endometriosis with insufficient response to current medical treatment options.