Prolactin receptor is required for normal glucose homeostasis and modulation of beta-cell mass during pregnancy

Endocrinology. 2009 Apr;150(4):1618-26. doi: 10.1210/en.2008-1003. Epub 2008 Nov 26.


Increased islet mass is an adaptive mechanism that occurs to combat insulin resistance during pregnancy. Prolactin (PRL) can enhance beta-cell proliferation and insulin secretion in vitro, yet whether it is PRL or other pregnancy-related factors that mediate these adaptive changes during pregnancy is unknown. The objective of this study was to determine whether prolactin receptor (Prlr) is required for normal maternal glucose homeostasis during pregnancy. An ip glucose tolerance test was performed on timed-pregnant Prlr(+/+) and heterozygous null Prlr(+/-) mice on d 0, 15, and 18 of pregnancy. Compared with Prlr(+/+) mice, Prlr(+/-) mice had impaired glucose clearance, decreased glucose-stimulated insulin release, higher nonfasted blood glucose, and lower insulin levels during but not before pregnancy. There was no difference in their insulin tolerance. Prlr(+/+) mice show a significant incremental increase in islet density and beta-cell number and mass throughout pregnancy, which was attenuated in the Prlr(+/-) mice. Prlr(+/+) mice also had a more robust beta-cell proliferation rate during pregnancy, whereas there was no difference in apoptosis rate between the Prlr(+/+) and Prlr(+/-) mice before, during, or after pregnancy. Interestingly, genotype of the mothers had a significant impact on the offspring's phenotype, such that daughters derived from Prlr(+/-) mothers had a more severe phenotype than those derived from Prlr(+/+) mothers. In conclusion, this is the first in vivo demonstration that the action of pregnancy hormones, acting through Prlr, is required for normal maternal glucose tolerance during pregnancy by increasing beta-cell mass.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Glucose / genetics
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glucose Intolerance / genetics
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Homeostasis / genetics
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / cytology*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Islets of Langerhans / cytology
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Pregnancy
  • Receptors, Prolactin / genetics
  • Receptors, Prolactin / metabolism
  • Receptors, Prolactin / physiology*


  • Receptors, Prolactin
  • Glucose