The expression of progesterone receptor (PR) and its induction by oestradiol during the embryogenesis of the chick bursa of Fabricius (BF) were studied by immunohistochemistry using three different polyclonal antibodies to the chicken oviduct PR. Mesenchymal cells of the cloacal area surrounding the bursa primordium in controls (without exogenous oestrogen) express the PR between 9 and 11 days of incubation. In the same cells, PR was induced experimentally by oestradiol at 9 days. Mesenchymal cells in the bursa did not express PR after oestradiol treatment before the age of 11 days. The PR was not inducible in the bursal epithelium or in haemopoietic cells. None of the bursal cells expressed the PR to a detectable level during embryonic life without exogenous treatment. Some haemopoietic cells showed strong artefactual staining in their nuclei. It is concluded that (1) the embryonic bursa of Fabricius is a sex-steroid-sensitive organ, (2) exogenous oestradiol is able to induce progesterone receptor in the mesenchymal cells, but (3) the PR is not expressed without exogenous oestrogen. This indicates that the PR becomes oestrogen inducible well before it is naturally expressed during sexual maturation and that the level of endogenous oestrogen during embryonic life is not high enough to affect the bursa significantly.

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