The receptor-binding properties of monomeric nonglycosylated human PRL (hPRL), glycosylated hPRL that does not bind to Concanavalin-A-Sepharose (G1-hPRL) and glycosylated hPRL that binds to Concanavalin-A-Sepharose (G2-hPRL) were tested in the lactating rabbit mammary gland RRA for lactogenic hormones. Variations in the glycosylation pattern of G-hPRL altered its receptor-binding properties, suggesting that the site of glycosylation may be proximal to the receptor-binding region. Relative potencies for the displacement of [125I]hPRL by hPRL, G1-hPRL, and G2-hPRL were 100%, 40%, and 26%, respectively. Relative potencies for displacement of [125I]G1-hPRL by hPRL, G1-hPRL, and G2-hPRL were 100%, 44%, and 69%, respectively; however, the displacement curve for G2-hPRL was not parallel to the others. When G2-hPRL was radiolabeled, there was no specific binding to lactogenic receptors. The presence of PRL receptor subtypes and/or kinetic cooperativity was suggested by the complexity of the binding isotherms. The immunoreactivities of the PRLs were tested in a homologous RIA, using polyclonal antiserum. The modification of the glycosylation pattern of hPRL significantly altered the RIA values for PRL. When hPRL was used as the radiotracer, the percent cross-reactivities of hPRL, G1-hPRL, and G2-hPRL were approximately 100%, 23%, and 17%, respectively. When G1-hPRL was used as the radiotracer, the percent cross-reactivities were approximately 100%, 135%, and 54% for hPRL, G1-hPRL, and G2-hPRL; however, the displacement curve for hPRL was not parallel to those of the glycosylated hPRLs. When G2-hPRL was used as the radiotracer, the percent cross-reactivities were approximately 100%, 32%, and 37% for hPRL, G1-hPRL, and G2-hPRL. These data point out that the glycosylation heterogeneity of hPRL is a factor that affects the diagnostic accuracy of hPRL determinations. Specific RIAs for each PRL are needed so that we can have valid and reliable measurements of each PRL isoform and consequently gain a better understanding of PRL's complex biological role.