The changes in oestrogen, progesterone and prolactin receptor levels in target organs, and the macroscopic and microscopic modifications of uterus, ovary, adrenal and pituitary gland induced by long-term administration of high doses of medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) were investigated in female rats. Medroxyprogesterone acetate was injected i.m. for 30 days at daily doses of 7·5, 15 and 75 mg/kg. Oestrogen and/or progesterone-binding capacities were remarkably reduced at all doses of MPA used both in the uterus and pituitary gland. Furthermore, MPA caused a very evident reduction in the weight of pituitary glands, ovaries, adrenals and uterus.
In all MPA-treated rats corpora lutea were absent from the ovaries, whereas the adrenals showed a significant reduction in the thickness of the cortex. In accordance with this, there was no evidence of ACTH-producing cells in the pituitary glands. Prolactin-producing cells were also absent, while GH-producing cells were present. Serum prolactin levels were significantly reduced at all doses of MPA used. A dramatic reduction of prolactin receptor concentrations was observed in the liver and the ovaries of MPA-treated rats.
The results suggest that MPA acts as an antioestrogenic drug both by reducing the number of oestrogen receptors in target tissues and by changing the structure (and perhaps the function) of those organs (pituitary glands, ovaries and adrenals) which are, directly or indirectly, a source of oestrogens. The decreased synthesis of prolactin and the reduction of the number of prolactin receptors (which, on the contrary, are both increased by oestrogens) might be considered as additional antioestrogenic effects of MPA.
J. Endocr. (1984) 103, 287–293