Progesterone as a mediator of gonadotrophin action in the corpus luteum: Beyond steroidogenesis

R. L. Stouffer

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    113 Scopus citations


    Studies using newer, potent GnRH antagonists and pure gonadotrophins have clarified the importance of: (i) the strength-duration of the midcycle surge of pituitary gonadotrophins (LH, FSH) in follicle rupture and conversion to the corpus luteum; (ii) the continued requirement for pituitary LH throughout development and the functional lifespan of the primate corpus luteum. in the menstrual cycle; and (iii) the exponential secretion of chorionic gonadotrophin (CG) by the developing placenta to extend the functional lifespan of the primate corpus luteum in early pregnancy. Although studies continue to increase current understanding of the cellular and molecular actions of LH/CG to stimulate luteal steroidogenesis, knowledge of the processes whereby these gonadotrophins promote the development and maintenance of the functional corpus luteum remains limited. This review summarizes evidence that the primate ovulatory follicle and corpus luteum is a target for the primary steroid produced by luteinizing/luteal tissue (i.e. progesterone). With evidence for dynamic expression of genomic progesterone receptors (PRA/B), and possibly other progesterone-receptor systems, recent studies addressed the hypothesis that progesterone is a critical 'local luteotrophin' that promotes luteal development and sustains luteal structure-function during the menstrual cycle and early pregnancy. Specific progesterone actions to regulate tissue remodelling (via protease expression), health (anti-apoptotic effects) and sensitivity to other local factors (e.g. via estrogen receptor expression) are discussed. The collective data suggest that there are gonadotrophin-stimulated, progesterone-dependent processes that promote luteotrophic and suppress luteolytic pathways in the primate corpus luteum. However, further studies are needed to verify their role in normal ovarian function and relevance to possible ovarian defects in natural and assisted reproduction technique-related cycles.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)99-117
    Number of pages19
    JournalHuman Reproduction Update
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Mar 2003


    • Chorionic gonadotrophin
    • Early pregnancy
    • Luteinizing hormone
    • Luteolysis
    • Ovulation

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Reproductive Medicine
    • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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