The antagonistic effects of progesterone and of the anti-estrogens, tamoxifen and nafoxidine, to estrogen responses were studied in the target tissues of fetal and newborn guinea pigs. In the fetal uterus, progesterone inhibits the stimulatory effect provoked by estradiol on uterine growth, on progesterone receptor and on the acetylation of nuclear histones. Progesterone also blocks the synthesis of new progesterone receptor protein in organ culture. Tamoxifen or nafoxidine (1 or 10mg/kg/day injected to the mother for 3 days) provoke a uterotrophic effect similar to that of estradiol (1 mg/kg/day injected to the mother for 3 days) but these anti-estrogens have a limited effect on the progesterone receptor. Tamoxifen given together with estradiol antagonizes the effect of the estrogen on the acetylation of histones but the anti-estrogens do not block the effect of estradiol on uterine growth. Histological studies show that both estradiol and tamoxifen provoke a dramatic hypertrophie and hyperplastic effect particularly in the uterine epithelium. In the newborn uterus (6-day old), tamoxifen (s.c. injection of 0.6μg/g body weight) and estradiol (injection of 30 ng/g body weight) provoke a similar uterotrophic effect and both have a limited effect on the progesterone receptor. In the fetal thymus estradiol provokes a selective decrease in the larger and actively proliferating lymphoid cells of the cortical zone. Tamoxifen has a similar effect but to a much lesser extent than estradiol. On the other hand, tamoxifen antagonizes the effect of estradiol on this fetal tissue. It is concluded that during fetal life progesterone antagonizes the effect of estradiol but tamoxifen can act as an agonist or an antagonist of estrogen action which is a function of the type of response or organ considered.
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