Neuroendocrine control of brown adipocyte function by prolactin and growth hormone

J Neuroendocrinol. 2023 Mar 2;e13248. doi: 10.1111/jne.13248. Online ahead of print.


Growth hormone (GH) is fundamental for growth and glucose homeostasis, and prolactin for optimal pregnancy and lactation outcome, but additionally, both hormones have multiple functions that include a strong impact on energetic metabolism. In this respect, prolactin and GH receptors have been found in brown, and white adipocytes, as well as in hypothalamic centers regulating thermogenesis. This review describes the neuroendocrine control of the function and plasticity of brown and beige adipocytes, with a special focus on prolactin and GH actions. Most evidence points to a negative association between high prolactin levels and the thermogenic capacity of BAT, except in early development. During lactation and pregnancy, prolactin may be a contributing factor that limits unneeded thermogenesis, downregulating BAT UCP1. Furthermore, animal models of high serum prolactin have low BAT UCP1 levels and whitening of the tissue, while lack of Prlr induces beiging in WAT depots. These actions may involve hypothalamic nuclei, particularly the DMN, POA and ARN, brain centers that participate in thermogenesis. Studies on GH regulation of BAT function present some controversies. Most mouse models with GH excess or deficiency point to an inhibitory role of GH on BAT function. Even so, a stimulatory role of GH on WAT beiging has also been described, in accordance with whole-genome microarrays that demonstrate divergent response signatures of BAT and WAT genes to the loss of GH signaling. Understanding the physiology of BAT and WAT beiging may contribute to the ongoing efforts to curtail obesity.

Keywords: adipose tissue; beiging; growth hormone; hypothalamus; prolactin.

Publication types

  • Review