A human gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GnRH) upstream promoter/luciferase reporter gene construct (H2 construct) was generated by inserting a 1.7 kb Xbal/Af/II fragment containing the human GnRH upstream promoter region only into a promoter-less luciferase reporter vector. When JEG-3 cells were transiently transfected with this construct and treated with cortisol or its synthetic analogue dexamethasone, a stimulatory effect on the upstream promoter activity was observed. This stimulation was dependent on the cotransfection of a glucocorticoid receptor (GR) cDNA expression vector due to the low level of GR in JEG-3 cells and could be completely abolished by RU486, a glucocorticoid antagonist. Moreover, the cortisol actions could be modulated to a different extent by oestradiol. Thus, since the human placenta contains GRs and the increase in cortisol metabolism near term is regulated by oestrogen, the current findings suggest that cortisol may be physiologically involved in the regulation of GnRH gene expression in the human placenta.
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