Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), one of the most potent vasodilators known, exerts its biological action by interacting with its receptors. Recent reports suggest the existence of two types of CGRP receptors, CGRP-A and CGRP-B. The current study was designed to examine whether CGRP-B receptors are present in the rat placenta, and if they are, whether they are modulated by gestational age and by sex-steroid hormones. Placentas were obtained from timed pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats that were killed on Days 17–21 and 22 before and during labor (n = 6 for each gestational age). In addition, placentas were also obtained from pregnant rats injected with progesterone (P4; 4 mg per rat per day s.c. on Days 20–22), antiprogesterone RU-486 (10 mg/rat s.c. on Day 17), 17β-estradiol (5 μg/rat s.c. on Day 17), and antiestrogen ICI 182780 (0.3 μg/rat s.c. on Day 17). Results showed that first, immunoflourescent staining of rat placentas using monoclonal anti-CGRP-B receptor antibody revealed the presence of CGRP-B receptors in the labyrinthine layer of the placenta, specifically to the trophoblast and blood vessel endothelium and underlying smooth muscle cells. The intensity of staining was lower in placentas obtained during labor. Second, a single band of 66 kDa, reactive to CGRP-B receptor antibody, was obtained in Western blotting of the rat placenta; third, densitometric analysis of protein bands showed that CGRP-B receptors were increased from Day 17 to Day 22, with maximal levels obtained on Day 22 before labor, which was 10 times higher than that of Day 17 (P < 0.01); fourth, expression of CGRP-B receptors in rat placenta decreased during labor (8% vs. 100% on Day 22 before labor, P < 0.01); fifth, P4 given during Days 20–22 attenuated the fall in placental CGRP-B receptors at term labor; sixth, RU-486 given on Day 17 of gestation significantly decreased expression of placental CGRP-B receptors (18% vs. 100% in controls at 6 h, P < 0.01); seventh, a significant decrease in CGRP-B receptor expression was noted 48 h after estrogen administration; and eighth, ICI 182780 treatment on Day 17 increased placental CGRP-B receptors (152% vs. 100% in control at 48 h, P < 0.01). These results indicate that CGRP-B receptors are present in rat placenta and that receptor levels are higher with gestational age and lower at term labor. Progesterone stimulated and estrogen inhibited placental CGRP-B receptor expression. Thus, elevations in placental CGRP-B receptors in late pregnancy could play a role in increasing blood flow through the fetoplacental unit associated with rapid fetal growth during late gestation.
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