To explore how progesterone affects human pregnancy, we identified the progesterone target cells within the fetal membranes (amnion, chorion, and decidua) at term by assessing the extent of expression and localization of the nuclear progesterone receptors, progesterone receptor-A and progesterone receptor-B. Fetal membranes (separated into amnion and chorion-decidua) were obtained after term cesarean deliveries performed before (n = 7) and after (n = 7) labor onset. Nuclear progesterone receptor expression was determined by the abundance of nuclear progesterone receptor mRNAs (by quantitative reverse transcriptase—polymerase chain reaction) and proteins (by western blotting). Localization of nPRs was determined by immunohistochemistry. Progesterone receptor-A and progesterone receptor-B mRNA and protein levels were highest in the chorion—decidua and did not change in association with labor. Nuclear progesterone receptor mRNAs and proteins were barely detectable in amnion. Nuclear progesterone receptor immunostaining was detected only in the nucleus of decidual cells. These findings suggest that the decidua, and not the amnion and chorion, is a direct target for nuclear progesterone receptor—mediated progesterone actions during human pregnancy.
Reproductive Sciences Vol. 16, Issue 4, p. 357-363