Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the role of 5beta-dihydroprogesterone (5beta-DHP), acting through the nuclear receptor pregnane X receptor (PXR), in regulating uterine contractility.
Study design: Uterine contractility was studied in tissues from women, rats, and mice. Messenger RNA was assessed using reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), and protein was measured using enzyme assays, immunofluorescence microscopy, and Western analyses.
Results: Human and rat uterine tissues contain mRNA and protein for 5beta-reductase and for PXR. Acute in vitro treatment with 5beta-DHP causes rapid uterine relaxation that is not mediated by PXR. Chronic in vivo administration of 5beta-DHP to mice with intact PXR, but not in mice with disrupted PXR, causes an increased effect of 1400W, a specific inhibitor of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). This suggests that 5beta-DHP increased iNOS-modulated uterine tone, as occurs during pregnancy.
Conclusion: These data support the hypothesis that metabolites of progesterone may act chronically through a PXR-mediated mechanism to regulate uterine contractility.