What can we learn from rodents about prolactin in humans?

Endocr Rev. 2008 Feb;29(1):1-41. doi: 10.1210/er.2007-0017. Epub 2007 Dec 5.


Prolactin (PRL) is a 23-kDa protein hormone that binds to a single-span membrane receptor, a member of the cytokine receptor superfamily, and exerts its action via several interacting signaling pathways. PRL is a multifunctional hormone that affects multiple reproductive and metabolic functions and is also involved in tumorigenicity. In addition to being a classical pituitary hormone, PRL in humans is produced by many tissues throughout the body where it acts as a cytokine. The objective of this review is to compare and contrast multiple aspects of PRL, from structure to regulation, and from physiology to pathology in rats, mice, and humans. At each juncture, questions are raised whether, or to what extent, data from rodents are relevant to PRL homeostasis in humans. Most current knowledge on PRL has been obtained from studies with rats and, more recently, from the use of transgenic mice. Although this information is indispensable for understanding PRL in human health and disease, there is sufficient disparity in the control of the production, distribution, and physiological functions of PRL among these species to warrant careful and judicial extrapolation to humans.

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

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Growth
  • Growth Hormone / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mammary Glands, Animal
  • Metabolism
  • Mice
  • Models, Animal*
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism
  • Placental Lactogen / genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Prolactin* / chemistry
  • Prolactin* / genetics
  • Prolactin* / physiology
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Prolactin / chemistry
  • Receptors, Prolactin / physiology
  • Reproduction
  • Signal Transduction


  • Receptors, Prolactin
  • Prolactin
  • Growth Hormone
  • Placental Lactogen