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Mol Cell Biol. 1994 December; 14(12): 8356–8364.
PMCID: PMC359374

The A and B isoforms of the human progesterone receptor operate through distinct signaling pathways within target cells.


The biological response to progesterone is mediated by two distinct forms of the human progesterone receptor (hPR-A and hPR-B). In most cell contexts, hPR-B functions as a transcriptional activator of progesterone-responsive genes, whereas hPR-A functions as a transcriptional inhibitor of all steroid hormone receptors. We have created mutations within the carboxyl terminus of hPR which differentially effect the transcriptional activity of hPR-B in a cell- and promoter-specific manner. Analogous mutations, when introduced into hPR-A, have no effect on its ability to inhibit the transcriptional activity of other steroid hormone receptors. The observed differences in the structural requirements for hPR-B and hPR-A function suggest that transcriptional activation and repression by PR are mediated by two separate pathways within the cell. In support of this hypothesis, we have shown that hPR-A mediated repression of human estrogen receptor (hER) transcriptional activity is not dependent on hER expression level but depends largely on the absolute expression level of hPR-A. Thus, it appears that hPR-A inhibits hER transcriptional activity as a consequence of a noncompetitive interaction of hPR-A with either distinct cellular targets or different contact sites on the same target. We propose that hPR-A expression facilitates a ligand-dependent cross-talk among sex steroid receptor signaling pathways within the cell. It is likely, therefore, that alterations in the expression level of hPR-A or its cellular target can have profound effects on the physiological or pharmacological responses to sex steroid hormone receptor ligands.

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