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Neuroscience. 2000;101(4):895-906.

Progestin receptors mediate progesterone suppression of epileptiform activity in tetanized hippocampal slices in vitro.

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Department of Obstetrics/Gynecology, The Toronto Hospital Research Institute, Toronto, Canada.


Clinical and laboratory studies suggest that progesterone reduces epileptic seizure activity. The mechanisms underlying this effect are not known. The present study determined the effects of progesterone on extracellular evoked responses recorded in the CA1 field of hippocampal slices, as well as epileptiform responses recorded from tetanized slices. Slices were prepared from ovariectomized rats, with or without estrogen replacement. Hippocampal slices were superfused in vitro with one of the following treatments: progesterone with or without RU486 (a progesterone receptor antagonist); allopregnanolone (a progesterone metabolite that potentiates GABA action at GABA(A) receptors); RU5020 (a high-affinity progesterone receptor agonist); or cholesterol (control). In non-tetanized slices, a twofold increase in the excitatory postsynaptic field potential and population spike amplitude occurred during both cholesterol and progesterone superfusion. In contrast, under the same conditions, exposure to allopreganolone caused a 25% reduction in both field potential and population spike amplitude of evoked responses within 30min of treatment. In tetanized slices, progesterone and RU5020, but not allopregnanolone or cholesterol, caused significant reductions in the field potential and population spike amplitude of evoked responses. Progesterone and RU5020 also significantly reduced the duration of tetanic stimulus-induced afterdischarges and the frequency of spontaneous interictal discharges. The effects of allopregnanolone were restricted to a reduction in the primary afterdischarge duration. Estrogen replacement slightly attenuated progesterone's suppression of spontaneous discharges and depression of evoked responses. All responses to progesterone were blocked by prior or concurrent exposure to RU486. These data indicate that allopregnanolone suppresses evoked potentials in non-tetanized hippocampal slices, consistent with previous reports that this neurosteroid has marked anxiolytic and anticonvulsant effects. After tetanization, however, progesterone receptor-mediated responses become quantitatively more important as a mechanism for suppressing hippocampal electrical activity.

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