Endogenous human prolactin and not exogenous human prolactin induces estrogen receptor alpha and prolactin receptor expression and increases estrogen responsiveness in breast cancer cells

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2004 Jan;88(1):69-77. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2003.10.008.


Prolactin (PRL) and estrogen act synergistically to increase mammary gland growth, development, and differentiation. Based on their roles in the normal gland, these hormones have been studied to determine their interactions in the development and progression of breast cancer. However, most studies have evaluated only endocrine PRL and did not take into account the recent discovery that PRL is synthesized by human mammary cells, permitting autocrine/paracrine activity. To examine the effects of this endogenous PRL, we engineered MCF7 cells to inducibly overexpress human prolactin (hPRL). Using this Tet-On MCF7hPRL cell line, we studied effects on cell growth, PRLR, ER alpha, and PgR levels, and estrogen target genes. Induced endogenous hPRL, but not exogenous hPRL, increased ER alpha levels as well as estrogen responsiveness in these cells, suggesting that effects on breast cancer development and progression by estrogen may be amplified by cross-regulation of ER alpha levels by endogenous hPRL. The long PRLR isoform was also upregulated by endogenous, but not exogenous PRL. This model will allow investigation of endogenous hPRL in mammary epithelial cells and will enable further dissection of PRL effects on other hormone signaling pathways to determine the role of PRL in breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Estrogens / analysis*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Gene Targeting
  • Humans
  • Prolactin / genetics
  • Prolactin / metabolism*
  • Prolactin / pharmacology
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Prolactin / metabolism*


  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Estrogens
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Prolactin
  • Prolactin