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MB Martin, SV Angeloni, P Garcia-Morales, PF Sholler, MD Castro-Galache, JA Ferragut, and M Saceda

Results presented in this study demonstrate that treatment of MCF-7 cells with taxol resulted in induction of estrogen receptor-alpha (ER alpha) gene transcription with a subsequent increase in ER alpha mRNA; this effect was promoter specific since taxol did not affect total transcription in MCF-7 cells and lacked an effect on transcription of the human acidic ribosomal phosphoprotein protein PO, progesterone receptor, and pS2 genes. In contrast to the increase in transcription of the ER alpha gene, taxol inhibited translation of the ER alpha mRNA. This effect is also transcript specific since taxol did not alter total protein synthesis and did not affect the concentration of progesterone receptor protein in the cell. The overall result of taxol treatment was to decrease the concentration of ER alpha protein in the MCF-7 cells. Evidence is presented that the effects of taxol on ER alpha gene transcription may be mediated through the induction of p53.

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SA Li, SJ Weroha, O Tawfik, and JJ Li

There is increasing evidence that both endogenous and exogenously ingested estrogens play a primary role in sporadic breast cancer causation. To establish further that solely estrogen-induced mammary oncogenesis in female ACI rats is an estrogen receptor (ERalpha)-driven process, we show for the first time that concomitant treatment with the antiestrogen, tamoxifen citrate (TAMc), completely prevents the induction of 17beta-estradiol (E(2))-induced mammary gland tumors (MGTs). This finding is also supported by the reduced mammary gland (MG) lobulo-alveolar development and proliferative activity observed in TAMc+E(2)-treated animals compared with MGs from animals treated with E(2) alone. These data also correlated with a marked decrease in the number of MG cells expressing ERalpha and progesterone receptor (PR) in immunostained MG tissue sections from TAMc+E(2)-treated animals. Additionally, a marked decline in the level of expression of ERalpha 47, 56 and 66 kDa forms, and PR-A and PR-B was seen in TAMc+E(2)-treated MGs, compared with MGs treated solely with E(2). Thus, both ERalpha and PR MG profiles in TAMc+E(2)-treated rats essentially revert to their respective receptor profiles seen in untreated control and TAMc-alone-treated rats. The presence of 56 and 54 kDa isoforms in chronically E(2)-treated MGs and in MGTs respectively may contribute to fostering the enhanced E(2)-dependent growth response of both precursor and frank MGT epithelial cells. These findings are consistent with an ERalpha/PR-mediated mg cell proliferation, a prerequisite for generating the high frequency of chromosomal instability seen in E(2)-induced ductal carcinomas in situ and primary MGTs in female ACI rats reported by us previously.

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AV Sirotkin, AV Makarevich, J Kotwica, PG Marnet, HB Kwon, and L Hetenyi

The aim of our in vitro experiments with isolated porcine ovarian follicles was to study the effects of gonadotropins, GH, IGF-I and oxytocin (OT) on release of ovarian steroid, OT, IGF-I, insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3), prostaglandin F (PGF), prostaglandin E (PGE) and cAMP. It was found that quarters of ovarian follicles cultured for 8 days produced significant amounts of progesterone, estradiol-17 beta, OT and IGFBP-3 with peaks of accumulation from the 3rd to the 8th day of culture. Addition of serum promoted progesterone, estradiol and OT release, whilst accumulation of IGFBP-3 was maintained to a greater extent in serum-free medium. GH (10 ng/ml or above) was able to inhibit androstenedione, OT, PGF and IGFBP-3, to stimulate IGF-I and cAMP, and to alter testosterone and PGE release by follicles cultured in serum-supplemented and/or serum-free medium. IGF-I (10 ng/ml or more) inhibited androstenedione and PGF secretion, stimulated testosterone, estradiol, OT and cAMP production, but did not influence progesterone, IGFBP-3 or PGE output in these conditions. OT (100 ng/ml) was able to inhibit androstenedione and to stimulate testosterone, IGF-I, PGF and PGE, but not estradiol or IGFBP-3 release. A stimulatory effect of LH on progesterone and OT and an inhibitory influence of LH on estradiol secretion in the serum-supplemented medium were observed. FSH in these conditions stimulated OT, but not progesterone or estradiol secretion. The use of this experimental model suggests the involvement of gonadotropins, OT, GH and IGF-I in the control of ovarian steroid and nonapeptide hormone, growth factor, growth factor-binding protein, prostaglandin and cyclic nucleotide production. The stimulatory effect of GH on IGF-I, and the stimulatory influence of IGF-I on OT, as well as coincidence of the majority of effects of IGF-I and OT, suggest the existence of a GH-IGF-I-OT axis. On the other hand, the different patterns of action of GH and IGF-I on OT, estrogen and IGFBP-3 suggest that part of the GH effect on ovarian cells is IGF-I independent.

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C Massafra, D Gioia, C De Felice, E Picciolini, V De Leo, Bonifazi M, and A Bernabei

The effects of physiological changes in estrogens and androgens on the erythrocyte antioxidant superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase enzyme activities during the menstrual cycle were investigated in healthy eumenorrheic women. Blood samples were taken on alternate days from twelve normally cyclic women (age range: 20 to 27 years; mean age: 24.1 years) from the first day of one menstrual cycle until the first day of the subsequent one. Plasma was analyzed for FSH, LH, estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, free testosterone and androstenedione concentrations. Erythrocyte superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase activities were evaluated on the same days and cycle length was standardized on the basis of the preovulatory estradiol peak. Significant cyclic phase-related changes were observed in glutathione peroxidase (P<0.05), with higher glutathione peroxidase activity levels from the late follicular to the early luteal phase compared with those found in the early follicular phase (P<0.001 and P<0.002 respectively). A significant positive correlation was observed between mean estradiol and glutathione peroxidase cycle-related variations (r=0.80, P<0.001), whereas no significant cycle phase-dependent changes were seen in superoxide dismutase and catalase. No effect of progesterone and androgens on the erythrocyte antioxidant enzyme system was documented. The findings indicate that physiological ovarian estradiol production during the menstrual cycle may have an important role in regulating erythrocyte glutathione peroxidase activity.

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M Soaje, EG de Di Nasso, and RP Deis

Evidence suggests that endogenous opioid peptides are implicated in the suckling-induced prolactin rise. We explored the role of the opioid system and the participation of ovarian hormones in the regulation of prolactin induced by the suckling stimulus at the end of pregnancy in rats with developed maternal behavior, and during lactation. Suckling for 24 h induced a significant increase in serum prolactin on day 19 of pregnancy, which was increased more than three times when naloxone (2 mg/kg s.c.) or mifepristone (2 mg/kg) was administered. The combination of naloxone and mifepristone did not increase serum prolactin more than either compound alone. Administration of tamoxifen (500 microg/kg orally) on days 14 and 15 of pregnancy completely abolished the effect of naloxone, indicating a role for estrogens in establishing this inhibitory role of opioids. To examine the participation of the opioid system during lactation, we used groups of rats on days 1, 3, 5, 12 and 19 postpartum either (i) isolated from the pups for 4 h, or (ii) isolated from the pups for 3.5 h and reunited with them and suckled for 30 min. Naloxone, given just before replacing the pups, prevented the increase in serum prolactin levels observed in the suckled group of rats but had no effect on the basal levels of the isolated rats. To examine whether the participation of the opioid system in the release of prolactin is dependent on the variation of progesterone levels, rats on day 20 of pregnancy were implanted with two cannulae containing progesterone (that blocked postpartum ovulation) or cholesterol, and cesarean surgery was performed on day 21. To maintain lactation, pups (1-3 days old) were replaced every 24 h, and 4 days after the cesarean eight pups were placed in the cage at 1800 h to maintain a strong suckling stimulus during the following 24 h. Naloxone administration significantly reduced serum prolactin levels in control (cholesterol) rats but progesterone implants prevented the inhibitory effect of naloxone and this effect was not modified by treatment with estrogen. These results indicate that the opioid system modulates suckling-induced prolactin secretion, passing from an inhibitory action before delivery to a stimulatory action during lactation. This regulatory shift seems to be dependent on the fall in progesterone concentration at the end of pregnancy and the subsequent increase after the postpartum ovulation and luteal phase.

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Antonella Rosario Ramona Cáceres, Fiorella Campo Verde Arboccó, María de los Ángeles Sanhueza, Daniela Alejandra Cardone, Graciela Beatriz Rodriguez, Marilina Casais, Adriana Soledad Vega Orozco, and Myriam Raquel Laconi

Neuroactive steroids can rapidly regulate multiple physiological functions on the central and peripheral nervous systems. The aims of the present study were to determine whether allopregnanolone (ALLO), administered in a low nanomolar and a high micromolar concentrations, can: a) induce changes in the ovarian progesterone (P4) and estradiol (E2) release, b) modify the ovarian mRNA expression of 3 β-HSD, 20 α-HSD and 3 α-HSD, c) modulate the ovarian expression of progesterone receptors A and B, α and β estrogenic receptors, LH receptor (LHR) and FSH receptor (FSHR). To further characterize ALLO peripheral actions, the effects were evaluated using a superior mesenteric ganglion-ovarian nervous plexus-ovary (SMG-ONP-O) and a denervated ovary (DO) systems. ALLO SMG administration increased P4 concentration in the incubation liquid, by decreasing ovarian 20α-HSD mRNA, it also increased ovarian 3α-HSOR mRNA expression. In addition, ALLO neural peripheral modulation induced an increase in the expression of ovarian LHR, PRA, PRB, and ERα. Direct ALLO administration to the DO decreased E2 and increased P4 concentration in the incubation liquid. The mRNA expression of 3β-HSD decreased, and 20α-HSD increased. Further, ALLO in the OD significantly changed ovarian FSHR, and PRA expression. This is the first evidence of ALLO direct effect on ovarian steroidogenesis. Our results provide important insights about how this neuroactive steroid interacts both with the PNS and the ovary, these findings might help devise some of the pleiotropic effects of neuroactive steroids on female reproduction. Moreover, ALLO modulation of ovarian physiology might help uncover novel treatment approaches for reproductive diseases.

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M Bonenfant, PR Provost, R Drolet, and Y Tremblay

The 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases (17beta-HSDs) play a key role in the synthesis of sex steroids. The hallmark of this family of enzymes is the interconversion, through their oxydoreductive reactivity at position C17, of 17-keto- and 17beta-hydroxy-steroids. Because this reaction essentially transforms steroids having low binding activity for the steroid receptor to their more potent 17beta-hydroxysteroids isoforms, it is crucial to the control of the physiological activities of both estrogens and androgens. The human placenta produces large amounts of progesterone and estrogens throughout pregnancy. The placental type 1 17beta-HSD enzyme (E17beta-HSD) catalyzes the reduction of the low activity estrogen, estrone, into the potent estrogen, estradiol. We studied the cell-specific expression of type 1 17beta-HSD in human term placental villous tissue by combining in situ hybridization to localize type 1 17beta-HSD mRNA with immunohistochemistry using an antibody against human placental lactogen, a trophoblast marker. Immunolocalization of E17beta-HSD was also performed. To ascertain whether other steroidogenic enzymes are present in the same cell type, cytochrome P450 cholesterol side-chain cleavage (P450scc), P450 aromatase, and type 1 3beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3beta-HSD) were also localized by immunostaining. Our results showed that the syncytium is the major steroidogenic unit of the fetal term villi. In fact, type 1 17beta-HSD mRNA and protein, as well as P450scc, P450 aromatase, and 3beta-HSD immunoreactivities were found in these cells. In addition, our results revealed undoubtedly that extravillous cytotrophoblasts (CTBs), e.g. those from which cell columns of anchoring villous originate, also express the type 1 17beta-HSD gene. However, CTBs lying beneath the syncytial layer, e.g. those from which syncytiotrophoblasts develop, contained barely detectable amounts of type 1 17beta-HSD mRNA as determined by in situ hybridization. These findings, along with those from other laboratories confirm the primordial role of the syncytium in the synthesis of steroids during pregnancy. In addition, our results indicate for the first time that CTBs differentiating along the invasive pathway contain type 1 17beta-HSD mRNA.

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L Hu and D M Lawson


In this study we examined the effects of dopamine (DA) and its withdrawal on in vitro prolactin (PRL) release from subpopulations of lactotrophs from two regions of the anterior pituitary obtained from untreated ovariectomized (OVX) rats or OVX rats treated with estrogen, progesterone or a combination of the two. Anterior pituitaries were cut horizontally into an inner (dorsal) zone and an outer (ventral) zone. Each of these regions was enzymatically dispersed and the resulting cells were otherwise untreated (unseparated) or centrifuged through a discontinous Percoll gradient to separate the cells into two subpopulations (light and heavy cells). Each of these types of cells was perifused for 1 h with culture medium containing 1 μm DA followed by medium devoid of DA for 1 h. Prolactin released into the perifusion medium, collected as 5-min fractions, was measured by radioimmunoassay and normalized to the number of lactotrophs in the cellular pools as determined by immunocytochemistry.

In the presence of DA, PRL release from unseparated cells of the outer zone was significantly increased by estradiol treatment compared with the release from similar cells from OVX rats. (Differences were considered significant where P<0·05.) However, no effect of estradiol treatment was observed with unseparated cells of the inner zone or light or heavy cells from either zone. Progesterone had no effect on any cell type when administered alone. However, when progesterone was given following estradiol, PRL release from unseparated cells of the inner zone was increased significantly compared with similar cells from the other steroid-treated groups. Similar significant increases were observed with light and heavy cells of the outer zone, but there was no effect of the combined steroid treatment on light or heavy cells from the inner zone. When DA was withdrawn, prolactin release was significantly increased from all cells except unseparated cells of the outer zone of OVX rat pituitaries. However, when the cells of the outer zone from OVX rats were separated into light and heavy cells, they responded to the withdrawal of DA with significant and equivalent increases in prolactin release. Light cells of the inner zone of pituitaries from OVX rats were more responsive to DA withdrawal than were heavy cells. Estradiol increased the response to the withdrawal of DA by light and heavy cells of the outer zone and heavy cells of the inner zone. Progesterone significantly reversed these effects of estradiol on separated cells.

These results suggest that lactotrophs in two regions of rat pituitaries respond differently to dopamine and to its withdrawal, that subpopulations of lactotrophs within these regions also respond differently and that steroids modulate these responses.

Journal of Endocrinology (1996) 148, 113–120

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WX Wu, XH Ma, Q Zhang, and PW Nathanielsz

Our objective was to examine the topology-, gestation- and labor-related changes of estrogen receptor (ER)alpha, progesterone receptor (PR), oxytocin receptor (OTR) and thrombospondin-1 (TSP1) mRNA in pregnant baboon myometrium. ER alpha, PR, OTR and TSP1 mRNAs extracted from the lower uterine segment and fundal myometrium of pregnant baboons not in labor between 121 and 180 days of gestational age (n=9) and in established spontaneous labor between 164 and 193 days of gestational age (n=5) were analyzed by Northern blot. There were no topology-, gestation- or labor-related changes of ER alpha and PR mRNA in or between the lower uterine segment or/and the fundus. OTR mRNA was the same in the lower uterine segment and the fundus from baboons not in labor and non-labor fundal, but not lower uterine segment, myometrial OTR mRNA increased with gestation (R(2)=0.81, P<0.05). Fundal OTR mRNA rose significantly compared with the lower uterine segment during spontaneous labor. TSP1 mRNA increased significantly in both the fundus and lower uterine segment during labor. TSP1 mRNA in the lower uterine segment during spontaneous labor was higher than in the fundus during spontaneous labor. In conclusion, fundal and lower uterine segment ER alpha and PR mRNA remained unchanged in late gestation and spontaneous labor. The increased OTR mRNA may serve as a mechanism to increase uterine sensitivity to OT during late gestation. The higher fundal OTR mRNA compared with the lower uterine segment provides polarity which assists fetal expulsion by uterine contractions during labor. The significance of increased TSP1 mRNA during labor may relate to homeostasis and merits further study.

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ME Dunbar, P Dann, CW Brown, J Van Houton, B Dreyer, WP Philbrick, and JJ Wysolmerski

We have previously demonstrated that overexpression of parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) in the mammary glands of transgenic mice results in defects in ductal elongation and branching during puberty and in lobuloalveolar development during pregnancy. In addition, we have shown that PTHrP is necessary for the formation of the initial ductal tree during embryonic mammary development. In order to examine the effect of varying the timing of PTHrP overexpression on mammary development, we created tetracycline-regulated, K14-tTA/Tet(O)-PTHrP double transgenic mice. In this report, we document that this 'tet-off' system directs transgene expression to the mammary gland and that it is fully repressed in the presence of tetracycline. Using these mice, we demonstrate that transient overexpression of PTHrP before birth causes defects in ductal branching during puberty and that overexpression of PTHrP during puberty decreases the rate of ductal elongation. Furthermore, we demonstrate that if PTHrP overexpression is initiated after ductal morphogenesis is completed, lobuloalveolar development is unaffected. Finally, we demonstrate that the impairment in ductal elongation caused by PTHrP is associated with an increase in the basal rate of epithelial cell apoptosis in terminal end buds and a failure to increase end bud cell proliferation and decrease apoptosis in response to estrogen and progesterone.