Inhibition of oxytocin receptor function by direct binding of progesterone

Nature. 1998 Apr 2;392(6675):509-12. doi: 10.1038/33176.


The steroid hormone progesterone (P4) is essential for establishing and maintaining pregnancy in mammals. One of its functions includes maintenance of uterine quiescence by decreasing uterine sensitivity to the uterotonic peptide hormone oxytocin. Although it is generally held that steroid hormones such as P4 act at a genomic level by binding to nuclear receptors and modulating the expression of specific target genes, we show here that the effect of P4 on uterine sensitivity to oxytocin involves direct, non-genomic action of P4 on the uterine oxytocin receptor (OTR), a member of the G-protein-coupled receptor family. P4 inhibits oxytocin binding to OTR-containing membranes in vitro, binds with high affinity to recombinant rat OTR expressed in CHO cells, and suppresses oxytocin-induced inositol phosphate production and calcium mobilization. These effects are highly steroid- and receptor-specific, because binding and signalling functions of the closely related human OTR are not affected by P4 itself but by the P4 metabolite 5beta-dihydroprogesterone. Our findings provide the first evidence for a direct interaction between a steroid hormone and a G-protein-coupled receptor and define a new level of crosstalk between the peptide- and steroid-hormone signalling pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arginine Vasopressin / metabolism
  • CHO Cells
  • Cricetinae
  • Female
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Hormone Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Inositol Phosphates / metabolism
  • Ligands
  • Oxytocin / analogs & derivatives
  • Oxytocin / pharmacology
  • Pregnancy
  • Progesterone / pharmacology*
  • Protein Binding
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Oxytocin / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptors, Oxytocin / genetics
  • Receptors, Oxytocin / metabolism
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Uterus / drug effects


  • Hormone Antagonists
  • Inositol Phosphates
  • KB 5-21
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Oxytocin
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Arginine Vasopressin
  • Progesterone
  • Oxytocin
  • GTP-Binding Proteins