In order to evaluate the possible role of progesterone in fetal lung development, the presence of specific pulmonary progestin receptors and their ontogenesis were investigated in the rabbit fetus. Scatchard analysis of binding in lung cytosol from 29-day fetuses over a wide range of [3H]-R5020 concentrations indicates the presence of at least two binding sites. One of these sites, type I, is of very high affinity (KD = 0.12 nM) and low capacity (26fmol per mg protein). The second binding site, type II, is of lower affinity (KD = 36 nM) and higher capacity (240 fmol per mg protein). These two binding sites can be distinguished by sucrose density gradient centrifugation, the type I component sedimenting at 7.1 S and the type II component sedimenting at 4.5 S. Similar type I and type II sites are present in adult lung cytosol except that the type II binding component in adult lung sediments at 2.8 S rather than 4.5 S. Progesterone and R5020 compete well with [3H]-R5020 for binding to both sites while dexamethasone and cortisol do not compete. Thus the type I and type II binding sites appear to represent specific progestin receptors distinct from transcortin or the glucocorticoid receptor. The concentration of the type I sites increases significantly between the 20th and 29th day of gestation, with a further increase being observed in adult animals. The type II site is not measurable until 26 days of gestation and attains adult levels by day 29. Among a large number of fetal tissues examined, the lung contained the highest concentration of type I progestin receptor sites. Although cortisol and dexamethasone, even at very high concentrations, do not compete with [3H]-R5020 for binding to lung cytosol, the binding of [3H]-dexamethasone is inhibited significantly by nonlabeled progesterone or R5020 and this inhibition appears to be due to dissociation of [3H]-dexamethasone-receptor complexes. These results indicate that, in addition to type I and type II progestin receptor sites, fetal lung cytosol contains a third binding site, type III, which appears to be different from the glucocorticoid receptor site. Occupation of the type III site by progestins interferes with the binding of glucocorticoids to glucocorticoid receptors perhaps by increasing the rate of dissociation of glucoeortieoid-receptor complexes.
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