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Reproduction. 2004 Oct;128(4):423-31.

The human corpus luteum: which cells have progesterone receptors?

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  • 1Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Department of Reproductive and Developmental Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh--Little France, 49 Little France Crescent, Old Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh EH16 4SB, UK.


Studies comparing the regressing corpus luteum with the rescued corpus luteum have demonstrated that human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) has effects on cell types that do not express hCG receptors. As progesterone synthesis is hCG dependent and the corpus luteum has been shown to express genomic progesterone receptors, progesterone is a candidate molecule for these paracrine effects. This study aimed to define the cellular localisation of progesterone receptors in the human corpus luteum using dual-staining immunohistochemistry for genomic progesterone receptors and specific cellular markers. Well-characterised corpora lutea (n = 12) from different stages of the luteal phase were studied. The same distribution was observed in all corpora lutea examined. The steroidogenic cells (3beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase positive) and both theca-lutein (17alpha-hydroxylase positive) and granulosa-lutein (aromatase positive) express progesterone receptors, as do stromal fibroblasts (vimentin positive, fibroblast antigen positive). Vascular endothelial cells (CD31 positive), pericytes (alpha-smooth muscle actin positive), macrophages (CD68 positive) and fibroblasts within the central clot do not express nuclear progesterone receptors. Progesterone is a candidate messenger molecule for the effects of hCG on the matrix metalloproteinase-producing stromal fibroblasts. Some of the effects of hCG on steroidogenic cells may be mediated by progesterone, but its effects on blood vessels and macrophages require alternate paracrine signalling mechanisms. In addition, there appears to be at least two fibroblast populations in the corpus luteum.

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