A hormone-dependent transcription modulation system was established on the basis of a two-step transfection procedure of the human progesterone receptor isoforms (hPR-A and hPR-B, respectively) and a progesterone receptor-responsive reporter (MMTV-Luc). In the first step, stable transfection of the hPR-A and hPR-B isoform-encoding cDNAs was performed in the steroid receptor-negative CHO K1 cell line. Individual clones were characterized for hPR-isoform expression with respect to Western immuno-blotting, transcriptional activation and hormone binding. With respect to the latter characteristic, individual hPR-isoforms demonstrated similar dissociation constants (Kd for hPR-A: 0.5 +/- 0.3 and hPR-B: 0.8 +/- 0.3 nM, respectively) irrespective of the amount of receptor isoform expressed (Bmax varying from 4.1 to 33.2 nM). The Kd values observed for individual hPR-isoforms were comparable to those found for human breast tumor MCF-7 cells (Kd for hPR-A + hPR-B: 0.6 +/- 0.3 nM). In the second step, hPR-isoform expressing CHO clones were supertransfected with a MMTV-Luc reporter construct resulting in permanent cell lines useful for testing the activity of natural and synthetic steroids in their ability to modulate gene transcription. Both isoform-specific reporter cell lines responded in a similar ranking order towards different progesterone reference compounds such as Org 2058, progesterone (Prog), R5020, norethisterone (NE), and medroxy progesterone acetate (MPA). Moreover, a good correlation was observed between the relative binding affinity (RBA) and the transcriptional activation potency of these compounds towards the individual hPR-isoforms. The latter correlation could not only be demonstrated for the progestagenic agonist reference compounds but was also observed for the progestagenic antagonist reference compounds like Org 33628, Org 31710, RU 38486 and ZK 98299. The major difference observed between the individual PR-isoforms was related to the degree of stimulation of the reporter gene (MMTV-based) within the cellular CHO context. Therefore, these cell lines can be used for the determination and quantitation of the activity of (anti)progestagenic compounds in vitro but may also be useful to predict the activity of compounds in vivo (see also II Comparison of binding, transactivation and ED50 values of several synthetic (anti) progestagens in vitro in CHO and MCF-7 cells and in vivo in rabbits and rats).