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Nat Med. 2003 Dec;9(12):1533-7. Epub 2003 Nov 9.

Therapeutic administration of progesterone antagonist in a model of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT-1A).

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Max-Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine, Department of Neurogenetics, Hermann-Rein-Str. 3, D-37075 Göttingen, Germany.


Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) is the most common inherited neuropathy. The predominant subtype, CMT-1A, accounts for more than 50% of all cases and is associated with an interstitial chromosomal duplication of 17p12 (refs. 2,3). We have generated a model of CMT-1A by introducing extra copies of the responsible disease gene, Pmp22 (encoding the peripheral myelin protein of 22 kDa), into transgenic rats. Here, we used this model to test whether progesterone, a regulator of the myelin genes Pmp22 and myelin protein zero (Mpz) in cultured Schwann cells, can modulate the progressive neuropathy caused by moderate overexpression of Pmp22. Male transgenic rats (n = 84) were randomly assigned into three treatment groups: progesterone, progesterone antagonist (onapristone) and placebo control. Daily administration of progesterone elevated the steady-state levels of Pmp22 and Mpz mRNA in the sciatic nerve, resulting in enhanced Schwann cell pathology and a more progressive clinical neuropathy. In contrast, administration of the selective progesterone receptor antagonist reduced overexpression of Pmp22 and improved the CMT phenotype, without obvious side effects, in wild-type or transgenic rats. Taken together, these data provide proof of principle that the progesterone receptor of myelin-forming Schwann cells is a promising pharmacological target for therapy of CMT-1A.

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