Expression of nuclear progesterone receptors (nPR), membrane progesterone receptors (mPR) and progesterone receptor membrane components (PGRMC) in the human endometrium after 6 months levonorgestrel low dose intrauterine therapy
The classical steroid receptors (nuclear receptors), including those for progesterone (nPRs), are thoroughly characterized. The knowledge about so-called non-genomic effects, which are mediated by extra-nuclear initiated signals, has increased immensely the last decades. In a previous clinical study of endometrial hyperplasia, we observed that the antiproliferative progestin effect persisted after 3 months treatment with levonorgestrel (LNG) intrauterine system (IUS) even with a complete downregulation of nPRs. This raised the question of what other mechanisms than signaling through nPRs could explain such an observation. In the present study, RT-qPCR was employed to characterize mRNA expression for nPRs, membrane progesterone receptors (mPRs) and progesterone receptor membrane components (PGRMCs) in women (n = 42) with endometrial hyperplasia that received intrauterine low dose LNG for 6 months. At the end of this period endometrial tissue showed that nPRs were virtually completely downregulated (≈ 10 % of baseline) whereas the levels of remaining mPRs, subtype-α, -β and -γ were 76 %, 59 % and 73 % of baseline, respectively. PGRMC1 was downregulated to 15 % of baseline, in contrast to PGRMC2, which was upregulated to about 30 % above baseline. We used human cancer cells from uterine cervix (C-4I cells) as control. Progesterone caused a concentration-dependent antiproliferative effect but in several and separate studies, we were unable to detect nPRs (immunocytochemistry) in the C-4I cells. The use of RT-qPCR showed that nPRs were undetectable in C-4I cells, in contrast to mPRs and PGRMCs with a distinct mRNA expression. The present study suggests that mPRs and/or PGRMCs preserve the antiproliferative effect of LNG in the human endometrium and are responsible for the concentration-dependent antiproliferative effect of progesterone in C-4I cells.