Hormones exert powerful effects on reproductive physiology by regulating gene expression. Recent discoveries in hormone action emphasize that regulation of gene expression is not restricted to their alterations of the rate of gene transcription. On the contrary, hormonal effects on the stability of a specific mRNA can profoundly alter its steady-state concentration. The mRNAs encoding hormone receptors are commonly regulated by their own hormones to create autoregulatory feedback loops. Negative and positive autoregulatory feedback loops serve to limit or augment hormonal responses, respectively. After introducing the topics of mRNA degradation and regulated stability, this review focuses on steroid hormone effects on mRNA stabilities. Autoregulation of the mRNAs encoding estrogen, progesterone, androgen, and glucocorticoid receptors by the steroid hormones in reproductive tissues is discussed. In addition, steroid hormone effects on the stabilities of many other mRNAs that are important to reproductive biology are reviewed. These include mRNAs that encode gonadotropin hormones, integrins, growth factors, and inflammatory response proteins. Through these posttranscriptional effects, steroid hormones impact the expression of a large population of genes. Studies of the molecular mechanisms of hormonally regulated mRNA stabilities continue to identify critical mRNA sequence elements and their interactions with proteins. Increased understanding of how hormones affect mRNA stability may yield novel approaches to the therapeutic control of hormone effects, including those essential to reproductive physiology in animals.
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