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Aging Cell. 2010 Oct;9(5):799-809. doi: 10.1111/j.1474-9726.2010.00619.x.

Inhibition of apoptosis by progesterone in cardiomyocytes.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Arizona, Tucson, 85724, USA.


While gender-based differences in heart disease have raised the possibility that estrogen (ES) or progesterone (PG) may have cardioprotective effects, recent controversy regarding hormone replacement therapy has questioned the cardiac effects of these steroids. Using cardiomyocytes, we tested whether ES or PG has protective effects at the cellular level. We found that PG but not ES protects cardiomyocytes from apoptotic cell death induced by doxorubicin (Dox). PG inhibited apoptosis in a dose-dependent manner, by 12 ± 4.0% at 1 μm and 60 ± 1.0% at 10 μm. The anti-apoptotic effect of PG was also time dependent, causing 18 ± 5% or 62 + 2% decrease in caspase-3 activity within 1 h or 72 h of pretreatment. While PG causes nuclear translocation of its receptor within 20 min, the cytoprotective effect of PG was canceled by mifepristone (MF), a PG receptor antagonist. Analyses using Affymetrix high-density oligonucleotide array and RT-PCR found that PG induced Bcl-xL, metallothionine, NADPH quinone oxidoreductase 1, glutathione peroxidase-3, and four isoforms of glutathione S-transferase. Western blot analyses revealed that PG indeed induced an elevation of Bcl-xL protein in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Nuclear run-on assay indicated that PG induced Bcl-xL gene transcription. Inhibiting the expression of Bcl-xL using siRNA reduced the cytoprotective effect of PG. Our data suggests that PG induces a cytoprotective effect in cardiomyocytes in association with induction of Bcl-xL gene.

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