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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2002 Jan 15;1569(1-3):59-66.

Tissue-specific regulation of Ca(2+) channel protein expression by sex hormones.

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  • 1Department of Anestesiology, University of California Los Angeles, 90095-1778, USA.


The L-type Ca(2+) channel pore-forming alpha subunit, alpha(1C) can be detected in brain and heart as two proteins with molecular masses of approximately 240 kDa and approximately 190 kDa known as alpha(1C-long) and alpha(1C-short), respectively. In brain, the alpha(1C-short) is thought to be the product of a approximately 50 kDa C-terminus calpain-mediated proteolytic deletion. We now show that uterine smooth muscle also possesses alpha(1C-long) and alpha(1C-short) isoforms, and that the relative expression of these two forms is regulated by sex hormones in a tissue-specific manner. Protein expression of alpha(1C) L-type Ca(2+) channels was examined in uterine smooth muscle, brain and heart, comparing non-pregnant (NP) estrus vs. late-pregnant (21 days) rats. The two forms of alpha(1C) were detected in all studied tissues. In late-pregnant uterus, alpha(1C-long) doubled the expression of alpha(1C-short); in NP uterus the opposite occurred. However, these changes were restricted to the uterine muscle, with no changes in brain and heart. To investigate the mechanism of such regulation, ovariectomized rats were treated with sex hormones, progesterone (P4) and/or 17beta-estradiol (estrogen, E2). P4 treatment, which yielded P4 plasma levels of 5 +/- 1 ng/ml and a high P4/E2 ratio (3 +/- 1.5 x 10(3)) similar to the ratio in late-pregnant uterus (1.5 +/- 0.3 x10(3)), facilitated alpha(1C-long) expression. In contrast, E2 or E2+P4 treatment that increased E2 plasma levels to 60 +/- 8 pg/ml and 75 +/- 24 pg/ml, produced low P4/E2 ratios of 0.03 +/- 0.006 and 0.2 +/- 0.1, respectively. These low P4/E2 ratios also found in NP rats at estrus (0.3 +/- 0.1) favored the expression of alpha(1C-short) form in myometrium. Neither hormone treatment altered alpha(1C) expression in brain or heart. Our results indicate that expression of alpha(1C) isoforms depends on P4/E2 ratios. Plasma P4/E2 ratios <1 x 10(3) favor the expression of the alpha(1C-short); whereas ratios >1 x 10(3) facilitate the expression of the alpha(1C-long) form. This regulation is tissue-specific for myometrium since it did not occur in heart and brain tissues.

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