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J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2000 Jun;73(3-4):171-81.

Progesterone effect on cell growth, ultrastructural aspect and estradiol receptors of normal human breast epithelial (HBE) cells in culture.

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Department of Endocrinology and Reproductive Medicine, Hôpital Necker, Paris, France.


The stimulating effect of estradiol (E2) on breast cell growth is well documented. However, the actions of progesterone (P) and its derivatives remain controversial. Additional information is therefore necessary. On a culture system of normal human breast epithelial (HBE) cells, we observed an inhibitory effect on cell growth of a long-term P treatment (7 days) in the presence or absence of E2, using two methods: a daily cell count providing a histometric growth index, and [3H]-thymidine incorporation during the exponential phase of cell growth. A scanning electron microscopy study confirmed these results. Cells exhibited a proliferative appearance after E2 treatment, and returned to a quiescent appearance when P was added to E2. In both studies, P proved to be as efficient as the synthetic progestin R5020. Moreover, the immunocytochemical study of E2 receptors indicated that E2 increases its own receptor level whereas P and R5020 have the opposite effect, thus limiting the stimulatory effect of E2 on cell growth. In the HBE cell culture system and in long-term treatment, P and R5020 appear predominantly to inhibit cell growth, both in the presence and absence of E2.

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