Characterisation of progestins used in hormonal contraception and progesterone via the progesterone receptor

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2020 Dec 17;533(4):879-885. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2020.09.058. Epub 2020 Sep 29.


Different progestogens are widely used in hormonal therapy and mediate their therapeutic actions via the progesterone receptor (PR). Little published data exist on their relative efficacies and potencies via the PR, while those available may be confounded by off-target receptors, different methodologies and model systems. We performed dose-response analysis to investigate the efficacies and potencies for transcription of progesterone and several progestins widely used in contraception via the B isoform of human PR (PR-B). We compared responses using three different cell lines and two different transient transfection conditions. Results show that in vitro biological responses via PR-B for the select progestogens can vary significantly in biocharacter, rank order and absolute values for efficacies and potencies, depending on the cell line and transfection condition. Progestogen rank orders for published relative binding affinities are mostly different to those for relative efficacies and potencies. These in vitro differences suggest that rank orders and absolute values of the efficacies and potencies of the progestogens are likely to vary in vivo in a cell-specific and progestogen-specific manner, and cannot easily be extrapolated from in vitro data, as is usually the practice. While obtaining such data in vivo is not possible, these in vitro data show proof of concept for likely significant cell- and progestogen-specific PR-B effects.

Keywords: Dose-response; Efficacy; Potency; Progesterone; Progesterone receptor; Progestins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • COS Cells
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Contraceptive Agents, Hormonal / chemistry
  • Contraceptive Agents, Hormonal / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Progesterone / chemistry
  • Progesterone / pharmacology
  • Progestins / chemistry
  • Progestins / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, Progesterone / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects
  • Transfection


  • Contraceptive Agents, Hormonal
  • Progestins
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • progesterone receptor B
  • Progesterone