DNA replication licensing and progenitor numbers are increased by progesterone in normal human breast

Endocrinology. 2009 Jul;150(7):3318-26. doi: 10.1210/en.2008-1630. Epub 2009 Apr 2.


Proliferation in the nonpregnant human breast is highest in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle when serum progesterone levels are high, and exposure to progesterone analogues in hormone replacement therapy is known to elevate breast cancer risk, yet the proliferative effects of progesterone in the human breast are poorly understood. In a model of normal human breast, we have shown that progesterone increased incorporation of 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine and increased cell numbers by activation of pathways involved in DNA replication licensing, including E2F transcription factors, chromatin licensing and DNA replication factor 1 (Cdt1), and the minichromosome maintenance proteins and by increased expression of proteins involved in kinetochore formation including Ras-related nuclear protein (Ran) and regulation of chromosome condensation 1 (RCC1). Progenitor cells competent to give rise to both myoepithelial and luminal epithelial cells were increased by progesterone, showing that progesterone influences epithelial cell lineage differentiation. Therefore, we have demonstrated that progesterone augments proliferation of normal human breast cells by both activating DNA replication licensing and kinetochore formation and increasing bipotent progenitor numbers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA Replication / drug effects
  • DNA Replication / physiology*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Progesterone / pharmacology*
  • Progesterone / physiology
  • Receptors, Estrogen / physiology
  • Receptors, Progesterone / physiology
  • Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism


  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • Progesterone