Desogestrel down-regulates PHOX2B and its target genes in progesterone responsive neuroblastoma cells

Silvia Cardani, Simona Di Lascio, Debora Belperio, Erika Di Biase, Isabella Ceccherini, Roberta Benfante, Diego Fornasari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paired-like homeobox 2B gene (PHOX2B) encodes a key transcription factor that plays a role in the development of the autonomic nervous system and the neural structures involved in controlling breathing. In humans, PHOX2B over-expression plays a role in the pathogenesis of tumours arising from the sympathetic nervous system such as neuroblastomas, and heterozygous PHOX2B mutations cause Congenital Central Hypoventilation Syndrome (CCHS), a life-threatening neurocristopathy characterised by the defective autonomic control of breathing and involving altered CO2/H+ chemosensitivity. The recovery of CO2/H+ chemosensitivity and increased ventilation have been observed in two CCHS patients using the potent contraceptive progestin desogestrel. Given the central role of PHOX2B in the pathogenesis of CCHS, and the progesterone-mediated effects observed in the disease, we generated progesterone-responsive neuroblastoma cells, and evaluated the effects of 3-Ketodesogestrel (3-KDG), the biologically active metabolite of desogestrel, on the expression of PHOX2B and its target genes. Our findings demonstrate that, through progesterone nuclear receptor PR-B, 3-KDG down-regulates PHOX2B gene expression, by a post-transcriptional mechanism, and its target genes and open up the possibility that this mechanism may contribute to the positive effects observed in some CCHS patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-679
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sept 15 2018


  • Congenital central hypoventilation syndrome
  • Desogestrel
  • Neuroblastoma
  • PHOX2B
  • Progesterone receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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