Regulation of signal transduction pathways by estrogen and progesterone

Annu Rev Physiol. 2005;67:335-76. doi: 10.1146/annurev.physiol.67.040403.120151.


The female sex steroid hormones 17beta-estradiol and progesterone mediate their biological effects on development, differentiation, and maintenance of reproductive tract and other target tissues through gene regulation by nuclear steroid receptors that function as ligand-dependent transcription factors. However, not all effects of 17beta-estradiol and progesterone are mediated by direct control of gene expression. These hormones also have rapid stimulatory effects on the activities of a variety of signal transduction molecules and pathways and, in many cases, these effects appear to be initiated from the plasma cell membrane. There is growing evidence that a subpopulation of the conventional nuclear steroid receptor localized at the cell membrane mediates many of the rapid signaling actions of steroid hormones; however, novel membrane receptors unrelated to conventional steroid receptors have also been implicated. This chapter reviews the nature of the receptors that mediate rapid signaling actions of estrogen and progesterone and describes the signaling molecules and pathways involved, the mechanisms by which receptors couple with components of signaling complexes and trigger responses, and the target tissues and cell functions regulated by this mode of steroid hormone action.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Estrogens / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Progesterone / physiology*
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / physiology
  • Receptors, Steroid / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Transcription Factors / physiology
  • Transcription, Genetic / physiology


  • Estrogens
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Receptors, Steroid
  • Transcription Factors
  • Progesterone