Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms that Distinguish the Effects of Progestorone and Medroxyprogesterone Acetate on Neuroprotection

Kaur, Paramjit
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Kaur, Paramjit. Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms That Distinguish the Effects of Progesterone and Medroxyprogesterone Acetate on Neuroprotection., Doctor of Philosophy, (Pharmacology and Neuroscience), July, 2006, 203 pp., 5 illustrations, 20 figures and bibliography. Women have a higher prevalence for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) than men, suggesting that the precipitous decline in gonadal hormone levels following the menopause may contribute to the risk of developing AD. However, principal results from the Women’s Health Initiative concluded that women taking conjugated equine estrogens combined with medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA, tradename: Prempro) incurred more harmful than beneficial outcomes versus the placebo group (Rossouw et al., 2002). This dissertation was aimed at determining if the discrepancy between basic science reports and these clinical studies could have been due to the synthetic progestin, MPA. I hypothesized that P4 and MPA differed in their ability to protect against the excitotoxic/oxidative insult, glutamate. Further, I proposed that this difference in neuroprotective potential would be reflected in the difference in the ability of these hormones to elicit key effectors of two neuroprotection-associated signaling pathways, the ERK/MAPK and P13-Kinase pathways. Finally, studies were initiated to evaluate the potential importance of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) in mediating the protective effects of P4. I used organotypic explants of the cerebral cortex, and found that both P4 and MPA elicit the phosphorylation of ERK and Akt, two signaling pathways implicated in neuroprotection, with maximal phosphorylation occurring at a concentration of 100 nM. Interestingly, P4 protected against glutamate- induced toxicity however, while an equimolar concentration of MPA (100nM) did not. Further, P4 resulted in an increase in BDNF, while MPA did not. Our data bring into question the relevance of using MPA as a component of hormone therapies in postmenopausal women, and instead, argue that the relevant progestin for use in treating brain-related disorders is progesterone. Collectively, the data presented here suggest that P4 is protective via multiple, and potentially related mechanism, and importantly, its neurobiology is different from the clinically used progestin, MPA.