Anticonvulsant activity of progesterone and neurosteroids in progesterone receptor knockout mice

Doodipala S. Reddy, D. C. Castaneda, B. W. O'Malley, Michael A Rogawski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


Many of the biological actions of progesterone are mediated through the progesterone receptor (PR), a nuclear transcription factor. Progesterone is well recognized to protect against seizures in animal models. Although this activity has been attributed to the progesterone metabolite allopregnanolone, a GABAA receptor-modulating neurosteroid with anticonvulsant properties, PRs could also play a role. Here, we used PR knockout (PRKO -/-) mice bearing a targeted deletion of the PR gene that eliminates both isoforms of the PR to investigate the contribution of the PR to the anticonvulsant activity of progesterone. The protective activity of progesterone was examined in female and male homozygous PRKO mice and isogenic wild-type controls in the pentylenetetrazol (PTZ), maximal electroshock, and amygdala-kindling seizure models. In all three models, the anticonvulsant potency of progesterone was undiminished in PRKO mice compared with control mice. On the contrary, there was a substantial increase in the anticonvulsant potency of progesterone in the PTZ and kindling models. The antiseizure activity of progesterone in PRKO mice was reversed by pretreatment with finasteride, a 5α-reductase inhibitor that blocks the metabolism of progesterone to allopregnanolone. Unlike progesterone, the neurosteroids allopregnanolone and allotetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone exhibited comparable anticonvulsant potency in PRKO and wild-type mice. The basis for the heightened progesterone responsiveness of PRKO mice is not attributable to pharmacokinetic factors, because the plasma allopregnanolone levels achieved after progesterone administration were not greater in the PRKO mice. These studies provide strong evidence that the PR is not required for the antiseizure effects of progesterone, which mainly occurs through its conversion to the neurosteroid allopregnanolone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)230-239
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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