The administration of oestradiol-17 beta or ethynyloestradiol as well as the synthetic progestogen norethisterone acetate resulted in translocation of the oestrogen receptor. Progesterone and the synthetic progestogen (+)-norgestrel were ineffective. The increases in nuclear oestrogen receptor content 1 h after injection of each steroid were similar but different subsequently. The increase with oestradiol-17 beta extended for 3—6 h and for at least 9 h with ethynyloestradiol. With norethisterone acetate, nuclear content was still increased after 24 h. Oestrogen injection resulted in cytosol receptor depletion and a ‘deficit’ in receptor content extending for 6 h, whereas norethisterone acetate-induced translocation was quantitative. With injections of norethisterone acetate + ethynyloestradiol the increase at 1 h and retention of the nuclear receptors were similar to that with norethisterone acetate alone. In contrast, the depletion of cytosol receptor and its restoration were similar to that seen with ethynyloestradiol alone, suggesting that norethisterone acetate did not interfere with the oestrogen receptor replenishment. Specific binding in vitro of [3H]oestradiol-17 beta in liver cytosols was inhibited by (+)-norgestrel and norethisterone acetate, but not progesterone, at concentrations of 10—100 microM. Nuclear receptors present after norethisterone acetate injection bound oestrogen with high affinity (Kd = 1.52 nM), similar to receptors of oestrogen-injected animals. In the uterus, differential retention of nuclear receptors in response to oestrogens is associated with different cellular responses. The differences in the response of the receptor system in liver to the various steroids suggests that the corresponding tissue responses may also be dissimilar. These results are discussed in relation to the problems of liver dysfunction in oral-contraceptive users.

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