The ovarian steroid progesterone affects reproductive physiology by regulating the expression of specific genes in target tissues. In an attempt to address the question of whether the ovary itself is a target tissue for progesterone action, we have examined the localization and regulation of progesterone receptor (PR) mRNA in the rat ovary. We used the polymerase chain reaction to clone the steroid-binding domain of the rat PR from uterine cDNA and used this as a probe to isolate a larger cDNA from a rat placental cDNA library. We used RNA filter hybridization, a quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction amplification assay, and in situ hybridization to detect PR mRNA in the rat ovary. Expression of the PR gene was initially studied in an immature animal model; 23-day-old rats were treated with either PMSG or PMSG followed by hCG. We found little or no PR mRNA in the ovaries of control or PMSG-treated animals; however, the mRNA was highly expressed in the granuiosa cells of large follicles in the ovaries of animals treated with PMSG followed by hCG. Other cell types, including thecal and interstitial cells, did not express detectable levels of PR mRNA. The PR mRNA was induced more than 20-fold in the immature ovary 5 h after hCG administration and was down-regulated to near-basal levels by 12 h after hCG administration. In a subsequent series of experiments, we examined PR gene expression in adult rats during the estrous cycle. The expression of PR mRNA was transient and was tightly coupled to the preovulatory LH surge on proestrous evening. PR mRNA was localized to the granuiosa cells of mature ovarian follicles during the estrous cycle. In cycling animals treated with pentobarbital to block the preovulatory LH surge, no induction of PR mRNA on proestrous evening was observed. This transient, hormonally regulated, and cell-specific expression of the PR gene in the rat ovary strongly suggests an important intraovarian function for progesterone during the rat reproductive cycle.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology