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      Progesterone and Medroxyprogesterone Acetate Effects on Central and Peripheral Allopregnanolone and Beta-Endorphin Levels

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          The increased use of hormonal therapies has led to the study of the properties of different progestin molecules and their effects on the central nervous system. The central and peripheral levels of neurosteroid allopregnanolone and the opioid peptide β-endorphin (β-END) are regulated by estrogens. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of a 2-week oral treatment with micronized progesterone or medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) alone or in addition to estradiol valerate (E2V) on central and peripheral allopregnanolone and β-END levels in ovariectomized (OVX) female rats. Thirteen groups of Wistar OVX rats received one of the following treatments: oral progesterone (2, 4 or 8 mg/kg/day); oral MPA (0.05, 0.1 or 0.2 mg/kg/day); E2V (0.05 mg/kg/day); E2V + progesterone (0.05 mg/kg/day + 2, 4 or 8 mg/kg/day), or E2V + MPA (0.05 mg/kg/day + 0.05, 0.1 or 0.2 mg/kg/day) for 14 days. One group of fertile and one group of OVX rats were used as controls. The concentration of allopregnanolone was assessed in the frontal and parietal lobes, hypothalamus, hippocampus, anterior pituitary, adrenals and serum, while the β-END content was assessed in the frontal and parietal lobes, hypothalamus, hippocampus, anterior and neurointermediate pituitary, and plasma. E2V administration reverted the ovariectomy-induced reduction in allopregnanolone and β-END. Progesterone and MPA increased allopregnanolone levels in all tissues except in the adrenal gland. The combined administration of progesterone or MPA and E2V determined a further increase in allopregnanolone levels with respect to E2V alone except in the adrenal gland and hippocampus only after MPA treatment. Progesterone did not affect β-END levels in the frontal and parietal lobes, hippocampus and anterior pituitary, while it caused an increase plasma, hypothalamic and neurointermediate pituitary β-END levels. MPA only affected β-END levels in the hippocampus and in the neurointermediate lobe. The combined administration of progesterone or MPA and E2V did not alter the effect of estradiol or it determined a further dose-dependent increase in β-END levels. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that progesterone and MPA have a similar but not identical effect on central and peripheral allopregnanolone and β-END levels. Their association with an estrogenic compound does not interfere with the positive effects produced by estrogen on allopregnanolone and β-END brain content.

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          Most cited references 46

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          Pharmacology of estrogens and progestogens: influence of different routes of administration.

           H Kühl (2005)
          This review comprises the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of natural and synthetic estrogens and progestogens used in contraception and therapy, with special consideration of hormone replacement therapy. The paper describes the mechanisms of action, the relation between structure and hormonal activity, differences in hormonal pattern and potency, peculiarities in the properties of certain steroids, tissue-specific effects, and the metabolism of the available estrogens and progestogens. The influence of the route of administration on pharmacokinetics, hormonal activity and metabolism is presented, and the effects of oral and transdermal treatment with estrogens on tissues, clinical and serum parameters are compared. The effects of oral, transdermal (patch and gel), intranasal, sublingual, buccal, vaginal, subcutaneous and intramuscular administration of estrogens, as well as of oral, vaginal, transdermal, intranasal, buccal, intramuscular and intrauterine application of progestogens are discussed. The various types of progestogens, their receptor interaction, hormonal pattern and the hormonal activity of certain metabolites are described in detail. The structural formulae, serum concentrations, binding affinities to steroid receptors and serum binding globulins, and the relative potencies of the available estrogens and progestins are presented. Differences in the tissue-specific effects of the various compounds and regimens and their potential implications with the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy are discussed.
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            The neurosteroids progesterone and allopregnanolone reduce cell death, gliosis, and functional deficits after traumatic brain injury in rats.

            This report compares the effects of progesterone and its metabolite, allopregnanolone, on the early injury cascade (apoptosis) and long-term functional deficits after TBI. Progesterone (16 mg/kg) or allopregnanolone (4, 8, or 16 mg/kg) were injected at 1 h, 6 h, and then for 5 consecutive days after bilateral contusions of the frontal cortex in adult male rats. Within one day after injury, progesterone and allopregnanolone reduced both the expression of pro-apoptotic proteins caspase-3 and Bax, and apoptotic DNA fragmentation. Progesterone and allopregnanolone also reduced the size of glial fibrillary acid protein (GFAP)-positive astrocytes at the lesion site 24 h after injury. Compared to sham-operated controls at 19 days after injury, injured rats given either progesterone or any of three doses of allopregnanolone had equivalent numbers of ChAT-positive cells in the nucleus basalis magnocellularis. At 19 days post-injury, rats given progesterone or allopregnanolone (8 mg/kg) showed improved performance in a spatial learning task compared to injured rats given only the vehicle. These results provide evidence of the anti-apoptotic and anti-astrogliotic effects of progesterone and allopregnanolone and help to explain why better cognitive performance is observed after injury when animals are given either neurosteroid.
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              Anxiolytic effect of progesterone is mediated by the neurosteroid allopregnanolone at brain GABAA receptors.

              Previous studies from this laboratory have shown that progesterone (PROG) treatment in ovariectomized rats produces an anti-anxiety response similar to that observed after the administration of prototypical anxiolytic benzodiazepine (BDZ) compounds. The PROG-induced anxiolytic response was highly correlated with an increased level of 3 alpha-hydroxy-5 alpha-pregnan-20-one (allopregnanolone) in the blood and brain, and was also associated with a facilitation of GABA-stimulated chloride ion (Cl-) influx in cortical synaptoneurosomes. This correlative evidence suggested that the anxiolytic effect of PROG was a result of its in vivo reduction to the neuroactive steroid, allopregnanolone. In this report, a series of studies was conducted to determine the mechanism(s) by which PROG alters behavior in animal models of anxiety. In the first experiment, ovariectomized rats were injected with PROG (1 mg/0.2 ml, SC) 4 h prior to a test in the elevated plus-maze. Some animals also received an injection of picrotoxin (0.75 mg/kg, IP), a GABAA receptor-gated Cl- channel antagonist, whereas other animals were pretreated with RU 38486 (5 mg/0.2 ml, SC), a progestin receptor antagonist. PROG elicited anxiolytic behavior in the plus-maze, an effect that was blocked by picrotoxin administration. Pretreatment with RU 38486 was not effective in altering PROG-induced anxiolytic behavior in the plus-maze. In a second experiment, the effect of PROG on behavior in the plus-maze was determined in the presence of N,N-diethyl-4-methyl-3-oxo-4-aza-5 alpha-androstane-17 beta-carboxamide (4-MA; 10 mg/0.2 ml, SC), a 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

                Author and article information

                S. Karger AG
                October 2006
                13 November 2006
                : 83
                : 5-6
                : 348-359
                Department of Reproductive Medicine and Child Development, Division of Gynecology and Obstetrics, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy
                95400 Neuroendocrinology 2006;83:348–359
                © 2006 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Page count
                Figures: 4, References: 59, Pages: 12
                Original Paper


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