Prolactin as a candidate sebotrop(h)ic hormone?

Exp Dermatol. 2018 Jul;27(7):729-736. doi: 10.1111/exd.13545.


Recognised for its key role in lactation, it is less well appreciated that the neurohormone prolactin (PRL) is actually one of the most pleiotropic hormones known. Not only does PRL exert both tropic and trophic effects in a wide range of tissues, but it is also expressed in human skin and hair follicles and regulates multiple complex cutaneous functions, including keratin expression and hair growth. Despite several clinical indications that PRL may also play a role in sebaceous gland (SG) biology, the effects of PRL on SG function have received little attention. In this Viewpoint essay, we argue that PRL may be a sebotrop(h)ic hormone and could represent a novel therapeutic target in human dermatoses affecting the SG. We provide preliminary evidence in support of this hypothesis (based on findings in human skin organ culture) and chart the major open questions in SG biology and pathology from a PRL research perspective. We close by delineating how these questions can be experimentally addressed so as to identify new therapeutic strategies that are either sebogenic or sebostatic, for example in the management of acne and cutaneous ageing.

Keywords: acne vulgaris; aging; hair follicle; prolactin; sebaceous gland.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / metabolism
  • Hair Follicle / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Prolactin / metabolism*
  • Sebaceous Glands / metabolism*
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin Aging / physiology
  • Translational Medical Research


  • Prolactin