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Neuroendocrinology. 2012;96(2):162-71. doi: 10.1159/000339822. Epub 2012 Sep 14.

Membrane progesterone receptors: evidence for neuroprotective, neurosteroid signaling and neuroendocrine functions in neuronal cells.

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The University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute, Port Aransas, TX 78373, USA.


Membrane progesterone receptors (mPRs) are novel G protein-coupled receptors belonging to the progestin and adipoQ receptor family (PAQR) that mediate a variety of rapid cell surface-initiated progesterone actions in the reproductive system involving activation of intracellular signaling pathways (i.e. nonclassical actions). The mPRs are highly expressed in the brain, but research on their neural functions has only been conducted in a single neuronal cell line, GT1-7 cells, which have negligible nuclear progesterone receptor (PR) expression. GT1-7 cells express mPRα and mPRβ on their plasma membranes which is associated with the presence of high-affinity, specific [(3)H]-progesterone receptor binding. The neurosteroid, allopregnanolone, is an effective ligand for recombinant mPRα with a relative binding affinity of 7.6% that of progesterone. Allopregnanolone acts as a potent mPR agonist on GT1-7 cells, mimicking the progesterone-induced decrease in cAMP accumulation and its antiapoptotic actions at low nanomolar concentrations. The decrease in cAMP levels is associated with rapid progesterone-induced downregulation of GnRH pulsatile secretion from perifused GT1-7 cells. The recent suggestion that mPRs are alkaline ceramidases and mediate sphingolipid signaling is not supported by empirical evidence that TNFα does not bind to mPRs overexpressed in human cells and that exogenous sphingomyelinase is ineffective in mimicking progestin actions through mPRs to induce meiotic maturation of fish oocytes. Taken together, these recent studies indicate that mPRs mediate neuroprotective effects of progesterone and allopregnanolone and are also the likely intermediaries in progesterone-induced inhibition of pulsatile GnRH secretion in GT1-7 cells.

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