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M Alkhalaf and AM El-Mowafy

We have recently shown that growth inhibition of breast cancer cells by progesterone is due to the induction of cell differentiation, but not apoptosis. Because the tumor suppressor protein p53 plays a central role in normal cell growth and in tumor suppression, we have examined the effect of progesterone on the levels of this protein in MCF-7 cells. We show here that the antiproliferative effect of progesterone is accompanied with down-regulation of endogenous p53 protein. To study the effect of progesterone on cell growth in the presence of normal levels of p53 protein, we used transient transfection to overexpress p53 protein. MCF-7 cells were transfected with a p53 expressing vector that contains p53 human cDNA under the control of a cytomegalovirus promoter. Cell growth, cell viability, and apoptosis were analyzed in the transfected cells after six days of exposure to 100 nM progesterone. We show here that progesterone significantly enhances growth inhibition and apoptosis in MCF-7 cells overexpressing p53, but not in cells transfected with the control vector. These data suggest that re-establishing p53 function in MCF-7 breast cancer cells renders them more sensitive to the growth inhibitory effect of progesterone.