β-Cell proliferation and expansion during pregnancy are crucial for maintaining euglycemia in response to increased metabolic demands placed on the mother. Prolactin and placental lactogen signal through the prolactin receptor (PRLR) and contribute to adaptive β-cell responses in pregnancy; however, the in vivo requirement for PRLR signaling specifically in maternal β-cell adaptations remains unknown. We generated a floxed allele of Prlr, allowing conditional loss of PRLR in β-cells. In this study, we show that loss of PRLR signaling in β-cells results in gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), reduced β-cell proliferation, and failure to expand β-cell mass during pregnancy. Targeted PRLR loss in maternal β-cells in vivo impaired expression of the transcription factor Foxm1, both G1/S and G2/M cyclins, tryptophan hydroxylase 1 (Tph1), and islet serotonin production, for which synthesis requires Tph1. This conditional system also revealed that PRLR signaling is required for the transient gestational expression of the transcription factor MafB within a subset of β-cells during pregnancy. MafB deletion in maternal β-cells also produced GDM, with inadequate β-cell expansion accompanied by failure to induce PRLR-dependent target genes regulating β-cell proliferation. These results unveil molecular roles for PRLR signaling in orchestrating the physiologic expansion of maternal β-cells during pregnancy.
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