The objective of the present study was to further elucidate our previous observation that beta2-adrenoceptor activation induces oxytocin receptor (OTR) expression in rat myometrium. We wanted to investigate whether the mechanism behind this effect was under the influence of gonadal steroids. Ovariectomized non-pregnant rats were treated with estrogen, progesterone or a combination of both for 3 days. Some rats were concomitantly treated with isoproterenol. Estrogen treatment increased both OTR mRNA production and maximal binding of [3H]-oxytocin to isolated myometrial plasma membranes, but it did not affect contractility of isolated uterine strips challenged with oxytocin. When the estrogen regimen was combined with isoproterenol treatment, an augmented maximal contractile response (Emax) to oxytocin was observed although no further increase in OTR mRNA and binding was seen. Progesterone treatment did not in itself alter OTR mRNA, OTR binding or Emax. However, OTRs were induced at the level of gene expression when progesterone was supplemented with isoproterenol infusion. Finally, progesterone suppressed the effect of estrogen on OTR mRNA production and binding when the two compounds were administered together. However, when isoproterenol treatment was added this effect was abolished and Emax was enhanced more than that seen following treatment with estrogen alone. These data suggest that beta2-adrenoceptor activation represents an important regulator of OTR expression/function in estrogen- and progesterone-dominated rat myometrium.
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