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, 165 (3), 693-702

The Oestrogenic Effects of Gestodene, a Potent Contraceptive Progestin, Are Mediated by Its A-ring Reduced Metabolites


The Oestrogenic Effects of Gestodene, a Potent Contraceptive Progestin, Are Mediated by Its A-ring Reduced Metabolites

A E Lemus et al. J Endocrinol.


Gestodene (17 alpha-ethynyl-13 beta-ethyl-17 beta-hydroxy-4, 15-gonadien-3-one) is the most potent synthetic progestin currently available and it is widely used as a fertility regulating agent in a number of contraceptive formulations because of its high effectiveness, safety and acceptability. The observation that contraceptive synthetic progestins exert hormone-like effects other than their progestational activities, prompted us to investigate whether gestodene (GSD) administration may induce oestrogenic effects, even though the GSD molecule does not interact with intracellular oestrogen receptors (ER). To assess whether GSD may exert oestrogenic effects through some of its neutral metabolites, a series of experimental studies were undertaken using GSD and three of its A-ring reduced metabolites. Receptor binding studies by displacement analysis confirmed that indeed GSD does not bind to the ER, whereas its 3 beta,5 alpha-tetrahydro reduced derivative (3 beta GSD) interacts with a relative high affinity with the ER. The 3 alpha,5 alpha GSD isomer (3 alpha GSD) also binds to the ER, though to a lesser extent. The ability of the A-ring reduced GSD derivatives to induce oestrogenic actions was evaluated by the use of two different molecular bioassays: (a) transactivation of a yeast system co-transfected with the human ER alpha (hER alpha) gene and oestrogen responsive elements fused to the beta-galactosidase reporter vector and (b) transactivation of the hER alpha-mediated transcription of the chloramphenicol acetyl transferase (CAT) reporter gene in a HeLa cells expression system. The oestrogenic potency of 3 beta GSD was also assessed by its capability to induce oestrogen-dependent progestin receptors (PR) in the anterior pituitary of castrated female rats. The results demonstrated that 3 beta GSD and 3 alpha GSD were able to activate, in a dose-dependent manner, the hER alpha-mediated transcription of both the beta-galactosidase and the CAT reporter genes in the yeast and HeLa cells expression systems respectively. In both assays the 3 beta derivative of GSD exhibited a significantly greater oestrogenic effect than its 3 alpha isomer, while unchanged GSD and 5 alpha GSD were completely ineffective. Neither 3 beta GSD nor 3 alpha GSD exhibited oestrogen synergistic actions. Interestingly, the pure steroidal anti-oestrogen ICI-182,780 diminished the transactivation induced by 3 beta GSD and 3 alpha GSD in the yeast expression system. Furthermore, administration of 3 beta GSD resulted in a significant increase of oestrogen-dependent PR in the anterior pituitaries of castrated rats in comparison with vehicle-treated animals. The characteristics of the 3 beta GSD-induced PR were identical to those induced by oestradio benzoate. The overall results demonstrate that 3 beta GSD and its 3 alpha isomeric alcohol specifically bind to the ER and possess a weak intrinsic oestrogenic activity, whereas unmodified GSD does not. The data contribute to a better understanding of the GSD mechanism of action and allow the hypothesis to be advanced that the slight oestrogenlike effects attributable to GSD are mediated by its non-phenolic, tetrahydro reduced metabolites.

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