Progesterone increases the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor from glia via progesterone receptor membrane component 1 (Pgrmc1)-dependent ERK5 signaling

Chang Su, Rebecca L. Cunningham, Nataliya Rybalchenko, Meharvan Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Progesterone (P4) is cytoprotective in various experimental models, but our understanding of the mechanisms involved is still incomplete. Our laboratory has implicated brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) signaling as an important mediator of P4's protective actions. We have shown that P4 increases the expression of BDNF, an effect mediated by the classical P4 receptor (PR), and that the protective effects of P4 were abolished using inhibitors of Trk receptor signaling. In an effort to extend our understanding of the interrelationship between P4 and BDNF signaling, we determined whether P4 influenced BDNF release and examined the role of the classical PR and a putative membrane PR, progesterone receptor membrane component-1 (Pgrmc1), as mediators of this response. Given recent data from our laboratory that supported the role of ERK5 in BDNF release, we also tested whether P4-induced BDNF release was mediated by ERK5. In this study, we found that P4 and the membrane-impermeable P4 (P4-BSA) both induced BDNF release from cultured C6 glial cells and primary astrocytes. Both these cells lack the classical nuclear/intracellular PR but express high levels of membrane-associated PR, including Pgrmc1. Using RNA interference-mediated knockdown of Pgrmc1 expression, we determined that P4-induced BDNF release was dependent on the expression of Pgrmc1, although pharmacological inhibition of the PR failed to alter the effects of P4. Furthermore, the BDNF release elicited by P4 was mediated by ERK5, and not ERK1/2. Collectively, our data describe that P4 elicits an increase in BDNF release from glia via a Pgrmc1-induced ERK5 signaling mechanism and identify Pgrmc1 as a potential therapeutic target for future hormone-based drug development for the treatment of such degenerative diseases as Alzheimer's disease as well as other diseases wherein neurotrophin dysregulation is noted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4389-4400
Number of pages12
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2012


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