The biological basis for the observed modulation in cytoplasmic progesterone receptors (PgR) of normal mammary gland occurring during mammary development was investigated. Specifically, the relative roles of hormones vs. differentiation on (a) the decrease in PgR concentration during pregnancy and lactation and (b) the loss of mammary responsiveness to estrogen during lactation were examined. PgR were measured using the synthetic progestin, R5020, as the ligand. The hormones estrogen and progesterone were tested in vivo for their effect of PgR concentration. Mammary gland differentiation was assessed morphologically and by measuring enzymatically active alpha-lactalbumin. These studies show that there is a stepwise decrease in PgR that occurs in two stages. The first decrease is completed by day 12 of pregnancy and the second decrease occurs only after parturition. There appears to be a hormonal basis for the first decrease and it appears to be caused by the negative effect of progesterone on estrogen-mediated increase in PgR. In direct contrast, the absence of PgR during lactation and the mammary tissue insensitivity to estrogenic stimulation of PgR were not related to the hormonal milieu of lactation but were directly related to the secretory state of the mammary gland and lactation per se.

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