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ABSTRACT: Progesterone (PROG) provides neuroprotection to the injured central and peripheral nervous system. These effects may be due to regulation of myelin synthesis in glial cells and also to direct actions on neuronal function. Both types of cells express classical intracellular PROG receptors (PR), while neurons additionally express the PROG membrane-binding site called 25-Dx. In motoneurons from rats with spinal cord injury (SCI), PROG restores to normal the deficient levels of choline acetyl-transferase and of alpha3 subunit Na,K-ATPase mRNA, while levels of the growth associated protein GAP-43 mRNA are further stimulated. Recent studies suggest that neurotrophins are possible mediators of hormone action, and in agreement with this assumption, PROG treatment of rats with SCI increases the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) at both the mRNA and protein levels in ventral horn motoneurons. In situ hybridization (ISH) has shown that SCI reduces BDNF mRNA levels by 50% in spinal motoneurons, while PROG administration to injured rats (4mg/kg/day during 3 days, s.c.) elicits a three-fold increase in grain density. In addition to enhancement of mRNA levels, PROG increases BDNF immunoreactivity in perikaryon and cell processes of motoneurons of the lesioned spinal cord, and also prevents the lesion-induced chromatolytic degeneration of spinal cord motoneurons as determined by Nissl staining. Our findings strongly indicate that motoneurons of the spinal cord are targets of PROG, as confirmed by the expression of PR and the regulation of molecular parameters. PROG enhancement of endogenous neuronal BDNF could provide a trophic environment within the lesioned spinal cord and might be part of the PROG activated-pathways to provide neuroprotection. Thus, PROG treatment constitutes a new approach to sustain neuronal function after injury.
The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 03/2005; 94(1-3):143-9. DOI:10.1016/j.jsbmb.2005.01.016