Primary uterine cell cultures were used to study multifactor regulation of progesterone receptor (PR) and the signal transduction pathways which may serve to mediate that regulation. Increases in intracellular cAMP, brought about by treatment with cholera toxin plus isobutyl methyl xanthine or by addition of 8-bromo-cAMP, result in 6- to 7-fold increases in the intracellular content of PR as monitored by [3H]R5020 binding and by Western immunoblot using anti-PR antibodies. In these primary cultures of uterine cells isolated from 19-day-old immature rats, 8-bromo-cAMP evokes significant increases in PR by 8 h with maximal increases by 24 h. This time course and magnitude of PR stimulation are similar to those evoked by maximally effective concentrations of estradiol (3 × 10−9M) or IGF-I (20 ng/ml). Dose-response studies reveal that 10−6to 10−4M concentrations of 8-bromo-cAMP (8-Br-cAMP) elicit a maximal response. In contrast, 8-bromo-cGMP over a wide concentration range was unable to elevate cellular PR levels. Under these culture conditions, cell proliferation was not altered by treatment with any of these agents. Although estrogen, cAMP, and insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) may act via different pathways to increase PR, the effects evoked by maximally effective concentrations of these agents are not additive implying involvement of a common component. The increases in PR evoked by estradiol, cAMP, or IGF-I are markedly suppressed by treatment with antiestrogen (ICI 164, 384) or the cyclic nu- cleotide-dependent protein kinase inhibitor H8 or the protein kinase A inhibitor PKI, indicating the involvement of the estrogen receptor and phosphorylation pathways in PR regulation by these three agents. The present studies identify cAMP, as well as estrogen and IGF-I, as important regulators of the level of PR in uterine cells and suggest that multiple factors, including those affecting intracellular cAMP levels, might influence responsiveness to progestins via regulation of the intracellular PR content.
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