Prolactin regulates ZNT2 expression through the JAK2/STAT5 signaling pathway in mammary cells

Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2009 Aug;297(2):C369-77. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00589.2008. Epub 2009 Jun 3.


The zinc transporter ZnT2 (SLC30A2) plays an important role in zinc secretion into milk during lactation. The physiological process of mammary gland secretion is regulated through complex integration of multiple lactogenic hormones. Prolactin plays a primary role in this regulation through the activation of various signaling cascades including Jak2/STAT5, mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), p38, and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K). The precise mechanisms that regulate the transfer of specific nutrients such as zinc into milk are not well understood. Herein we report that prolactin increased ZnT2 abundance transcriptionally in cultured mammary epithelial (HC11) cells. To delineate the responsible mechanisms, we first determined that prolactin-mediated ZnT2 induction was inhibited by pretreatment with the Jak2 inhibitor AG490 but not by the MAPK inhibitor PD-98059. Using a luciferase reporter assay, we demonstrated that ZnT2 promoter activity was increased by prolactin treatment, which was subsequently abolished by expression of a dominant-negative STAT5 construct, implicating the Jak2/STAT5 signaling pathway in the transcriptional regulation of ZnT2. Two putative consensus STAT5 binding sequences in the ZnT2 promoter were identified (GAS1:-674 to -665 and GAS2:-377 to -368). Mutagenesis of the proximal GAS2 element resulted in complete abrogation of PRL-induced ZnT2 promoter activity. The promoter incorporating the distal GAS1 mutation was only able to respond to very high PRL concentrations. Results from both the mutagenesis and gel shift assays indicated that a cooperative relationship exists between GAS1 and GAS2 for PRL-induced activation; however, the proximal GAS2 plays a more critical role in STAT5-mediated signal transduction compared with the GAS1 element. Finally, chromosome immunoprecipition assay further confirmed that prolactin activates STAT5 binding to the ZnT2 promoter in vivo. Taken together, these results illustrate that prolactin regulates the transcription of ZnT2 through activation of the Jak2/STAT5 signaling pathway to assist in providing optimal zinc for secretion into milk during lactation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Cation Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Cation Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Line
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Janus Kinase 2 / genetics
  • Janus Kinase 2 / metabolism*
  • Lactation / physiology
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Milk / metabolism
  • Prolactin / metabolism*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • STAT5 Transcription Factor / genetics
  • STAT5 Transcription Factor / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Zinc / metabolism


  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • STAT5 Transcription Factor
  • Znt2 protein, mouse
  • Prolactin
  • Janus Kinase 2
  • Zinc