An important action of progesterone during pregnancy is to maintain the uterus in a quiescent state and thereby prevent preterm labor. The causes of preterm labor are not well understood, so progesterone action on the myometrium can provide clues about the processes that keep the uterus from contracting prematurely. Accordingly, we have carried out Affymetrix GeneChip analysis of progesterone effects on gene expression in immortalized human myometrial cells cultured from a patient near the end of pregnancy. Progesterone appears to inhibit uterine excitability by a number of mechanisms, including increased expression of calcium and voltage-operated K+ channels, which dampens the electrical activity of the myometrial cell, downregulation of agents, and receptors involved in myometrial contraction, reduction in cell signal components that lead to increased intracellular Ca2+ concentrations in response to contractile stimuli, and downregulation of proteins involved in the cross-linking of actin and myosin filaments to produce uterine contractions.
- gene array
- quantitative PCR