Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Betamethasone, progesterone and RU-486 (mifepristone) exert similar effects on connexin expression in trophoblast-derived HTR-8/SVneo cells

F. Cervellati A , B. Pavan A , L. Lunghi A , E. Manni A , E. Fabbri B , C. Mascoli C , C. Biondi A D , A. Patella C and F. Vesce C

A Department of Biology and Evolution, Section of General Physiology, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy.

B Inter-departmental Centre for Environmental Science Research, University of Bologna, Ravenna, Italy.

C Department of Biomedical Sciences and Advanced Therapy, Section of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy.

D Corresponding author. Email: carla.biondi@unife.it

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 23(2) 319-328 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RD10077
Submitted: 13 April 2010  Accepted: 13 July 2010   Published: 4 January 2011

Abstract

Connexins (Cx) are membrane proteins able to influence cell trophoblast responses, such as proliferation, differentiation, migration and invasiveness. Likewise, glucocorticoids are also known to modulate many factors involved in implantation, including trophoblast gap-junction intercellular communication, although their influence on pregnancy is controversial. In order to investigate the effects of betamethasone, a synthetic glucocorticoid, on Cx and glucocorticoid receptor (GR) expression and localisation, as well as on cell proliferation, the extravillous trophoblast-derived HTR-8/SVneo cell line was used as a model. The results, confirmed by means of immunofluorescence, demonstrate that betamethasone selectively modifies GR and Cx expression, enhancing the GRα isoform without affecting GRβ, and inhibiting Cx40 expression whilst increasing that of Cx43 and Cx45. Furthermore, betamethasone was shown to exert an inhibitory action on cell proliferation. In this model the abortion drug RU-486 (mifepristone), reported to be a GR antagonist, did not counteract this effect of betamethasone. On the contrary, it induced responses similar to those of the hormone. Knowing that RU-486 is also a potent progesterone-receptor antagonist, the effect of progesterone alone and in combination with the drug on Cx expression and cell proliferation was then tested. Progesterone showed the same effect as betamethasone on Cx expression, but it did not affect proliferation. Based on these results, neither the abortion effects of RU-486 nor the protective action of betamethasone and progesterone are exerted by modulation of Cx. RU-486 did not antagonise the progesterone effect, suggesting that its abortive action does not involve alteration of trophoblast Cx expression.

Additional keywords: early pregnancy, extravillous trophoblast, gap-junctions, glucocorticoids.


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