Prolactin and autoimmunity

Autoimmun Rev. 2012 May;11(6-7):A465-70. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2011.11.009. Epub 2011 Dec 2.


Sex hormones, especially estrogen and prolactin (PRL), have an important role in modulating the immune response. PRL is secreted from the pituitary gland as well as other organs and cells particularly lymphocytes. PRL has an immune stimulatory effect and promotes autoimmunity. PRL interferes specifically with B cell tolerance induction, enhances proliferative response to antigens and mitogens and increases the production of immune globulins, cytokines and autoantibodies. Hyperprolactinemia (HPRL) in women present with clinical manifestations of galactorrhea, primary or secondary amenorrhea, delayed menarche or a change in the menses either in the amount or in the regularity. Furthermore in the last 2 decades multi-organ and organ specific autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Sjogren's syndrome (SS), Hashimoto's thyroiditis (HT), multiple sclerosis (MS), psoriasis, hepatitis C patients, Behçet's disease, peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM) and active celiac disease were discussed to be associated with HPRL. There is data showing correlation between PRL level and diseases activity in few diseases. Genetic factors may have a role in humans as in animal models. The PRL isoforms based on the differences in the amino acid sequence and size of the cytoplasmic domain have an important effect on the bioactivity on prolactin receptors (PRL-Rs).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amenorrhea / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / metabolism*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / pathology
  • Autoimmunity*
  • Estrogens / immunology
  • Female
  • Galactorrhea / immunology
  • Humans
  • Hyperprolactinemia* / immunology
  • Hyperprolactinemia* / metabolism
  • Hyperprolactinemia* / pathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / immunology
  • Prolactin / immunology*


  • Estrogens
  • Prolactin