The role of prolactin and growth hormone in mammary gland development

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2002 Nov 29;197(1-2):127-31. doi: 10.1016/s0303-7207(02)00286-1.


Development and differentiation of the mammary gland occur primarily during pregnancy. Females homozygous (-/-) for the null mutation of the PRL receptor (PRLR) gene are sterile due to a complete failure of blastocysts to implant. In progesterone-treated mice pregnancy is rescued but the mammary gland is severely underdeveloped. Interestingly, females hemizygous for the PRLR (+/-) in their first lactation show an almost complete failure to lactate. This phenotype disappears in the second and subsequent pregnancies in inbred 129/Sv mice but is maintained in inbred C57BL/6 mice. In GH receptor (GHR) KO mice litter size is markedly decreased, probably due to an ovarian defect. To assess the relevance of the GH and PRLRs in the mammary gland development, GHR and PRLR null epithelia were transplanted into cleared fat pads of wild-type mice. Such studies show that epithelial GHR is not required for functional mammary development. In contrast, epithelial PRLRs are required for mammary development and milk protein gene expression during pregnancy. Since ductal development is impaired in GHR -/- mice, it appears that GH signals through the stromal compartment. In summary, it is now established that GH and PRL activate Stat5 in separate compartments, reflecting their specific roles in ductal and alveolar development and differentiation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Growth Hormone / metabolism*
  • Lactation / physiology*
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / growth & development*
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • Pregnancy
  • Prolactin / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Prolactin / genetics
  • Receptors, Prolactin / metabolism
  • Receptors, Somatotropin / genetics
  • Receptors, Somatotropin / metabolism


  • Receptors, Prolactin
  • Receptors, Somatotropin
  • Prolactin
  • Growth Hormone