We have previously reported that the contractile response to thrombin and trypsin was enhanced in the pregnant rat myometrium. We herein determined whether or not sex hormones contribute to this enhancement and the expression of protease-activated receptors (PARs). The nonpregnant rats received daily injections of either 17β-estradiol or progesterone, and then the contractile response of the myometrium was examined ex vivo. Treatment with either 17β-estradiol or progesterone had almost no significant enhancing effect on the high K +- or oxytocin-induced contraction. On the other hand, both 17β-estradiol and progesterone dose-dependently enhanced the contractile response to trypsin. A maximal enhancement was obtained at 25 and 40 mg kg weight -1 day -1 for 17β-estradiol and progesterone, respectively. The extent of the enhancement of the trypsin-induced contraction seen in the sex hormone-treated rats in the present study was comparable to that reported in the pregnant rats. However, the contractile response to thrombin and PAR1/PAR2-AP, SFLLRNP was not enhanced either by progesterone or 17β-estradiol. PAR2-AP and PAR4-AP failed to induce contraction under any conditions. PAR1 mRNA was scarcely detected in the control myometrium by an RT-PCR analysis, while it slightly increased only in the progesterone-treated rats. Neither PAR2 nor PAR4 mRNA was detected. We thus conclude that the responsiveness to trypsin, but not thrombin, is controlled by sex hormones. A novel type of receptor, other than PAR1, PAR2 or PAR4, is suggested to mediate the trypsin-induced contraction as in the case of the pregnant rat myometrium.
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