Mammary epithelial cells grow and develop with the onset of sexual maturity. In addition, lobular alveolar structures are formed during pregnancy, and quiescent differentiated cells secrete high levels of milk proteins after parturition. These events are governed by multiple hormones and growth factors and involve the sequential and synergistic action of functionally distinct signal transduction pathways. Milk protein genes have been analyzed and composite response elements have been identified in the promoter sequences. Transcription factors, which relay the hormonal signals, bind to these sequences. The factor that confers prolactin simulation to milk protein gene transcription has recently been identified. MGF/Stat5 is a latent transcription factor that becomes activated by a tyrosine-specific protein kinase, Jak2, associated with the prolactin receptor. Tyrosine phosphorylation converts the latent factor into one with DNA-binding and transcriptional activation potential. The regulation of MGF/Stat5 in vitro and in vivo indicates that it is a central component of the lactogenic hormone signaling pathway. Involvement of MGF/Stat5 in the signaling by other cytokines indicates that the same factor might be involved in regulation of growth-promoting genes, primarily in hematopoietic cells.