Three experiments were conducted to assess the influence of prolactin on lipolysis in rabbits. In vivo, a single injection of 1 mg of ovine prolactin induces increased plasma glycerol and nonesterified fatty acids concentrations within 30 min (P < 0.01). On the contrary, in vitro, oPRL did not stimulate glycerol release in isolated adipocytes at physiological concentrations (under 10(-8) M). In a third experiment, the effect of chronic hyperprolactinemia on the adrenergic control of lipolysis was studied (daily subcutaneous injections of 1 mg ovine prolactin for 12 days). The weight of perirenal adipose tissue at the end of the period of injections was 27% lower in the prolactin-injected (PRL) rabbits than in the control (CTL) rabbits (88 +/- 15 g vs. 120 +/- 25 g; P < 0.05). Food intake during the period of injections was 28% lower in the PRL group than in the CTL group (177 +/- 21 g/d vs. 246 +/- 13 g/d; P < 0.05). Basal glycerol release was 157% higher in adipocytes from PRL rabbits than in those from CTL rabbits (P < 0.05). Stimulation of lipolysis with different adrenergic agonists was similar in both groups. These results suggested an indirect influence of prolactin on adipose tissue lipolysis in rabbits, but mechanisms implicated in this effect remain to be elucidated.