In classical target tissues, progesterone (P) down-regulates its own receptor, yet in the primate corpus luteum, progesterone receptors (PRs) exist within a very high local P milieu. The percentage of luteal cells staining PR-positive by immunocytochemistry is highest at the midluteal phase of the menstrual cycle during the period of peak serum P. To investigate the regulation of luteal PRs, we developed a solution hybridization/ribonuclease protection assay for the analysis of PR messenger RNA (mRNA) in macaque corpora lutea (n = 3-4/group). A 332-basepair fragment of the macaque PR complementary DNA corresponding to the hormone-binding region was used as a template for riboprobe production; the specific hybridization of this riboprobe with PR mRNA was confirmed with Northern analysis. P regulation of luteal PR mRNA was investigated by administering trilostane, a 3 β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase inhibitor, to female rhesus macaques beginning on day 6 or 7 of the luteal phase, which reduced serum P until the time of lutectomy. By 18 h after trilostane treatment, luteal PR mRNA levels were significantly elevated compared to untreated control values (mean ± SEM, 2.0 ± 0.4 vs. 0.7 ± 0.3; P < 0.05). Reduction in P levels for 4 days after trilostane administration decreased luteal PR mRNA levels compared with control values (0.50 ± 0.02 vs. 1.1 ± 0.2; P < 0.05). To characterize changes in PR mRNA during the lifespan of the corpus luteum, mRNA levels in luteal tissues from the early, mid-, mid-late, and late luteal phases were determined. PR mRNA levels were lowest during the early luteal phase and increased (P < 0.05) 3-fold by the mid-late luteal phase; this higher PR mRNA level was maintained throughout the remainder of the luteal phase. These data indicate that P or a metabolite may acutely regulate primate luteal PR mRNA in a manner consistent with PR regulation in classical P target tissues. In contrast, PR mRNA levels parallel increases in P and PR-positive luteal cells during the early, mid-, and mid-late portions of the luteal phase. High PR mRNA levels are maintained during luteal regression as P and the percentage of PR-positive cells decline, suggesting that PR and PR mRNA are regulated in an asynchronous manner during the lifespan of the corpus luteum in the menstrual cycle.
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