Adipocyte prolactin: regulation of release and putative functions

Diabetes Obes Metab. 2007 Jul;9(4):464-76. doi: 10.1111/j.1463-1326.2006.00671.x.


Pituitary-derived prolactin (PRL) is a well-known regulator of the lactating mammary gland. However, the recent discovery that human adipose tissue produces PRL as well as expresses the PRL receptor (PRLR) highlights a previously unappreciated action of PRL as a cytokine involved in adipose tissue function. Biologically active PRL is secreted by all adipose tissue depots examined: breast, visceral and subcutaneous. The expression of adipose PRL is regulated by a non-pituitary, alternative superdistal promoter. PRL expression and release increases during early pre-adipocyte differentiation and is stimulated by cyclic AMP activators, including beta adrenergic receptor agonists. PRL release from subcutaneous adipose explants is attenuated during obesity, suggesting that adipose PRL production is altered by the metabolic state. Several lines of evidence indicate that PRL suppresses lipid storage as well as the release of adipokines such as adiponectin, interleukin-6 and possibly leptin. PRL has also been implicated in the regulation of adipogenesis. A newly developed PRL-secreting human adipocyte cell line, LS14, should allow comprehensive examination of the regulation and function of adipocyte-derived PRL. Collectively, these studies raise the prospect that PRL affects energy homeostasis through its action as an adipokine and is involved in the manifestation of insulin resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / physiology*
  • Adipokines / physiology
  • Adipose Tissue / physiology*
  • Adipose Tissue / physiopathology
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Prolactin / genetics
  • Prolactin / metabolism
  • Prolactin / physiology*
  • Receptors, Prolactin / genetics
  • Receptors, Prolactin / physiology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Adipokines
  • Receptors, Prolactin
  • Prolactin