PRL stimulates adrenal steroidogenesis. In this study, we compared the PRLR expression in normal and tumorous adrenal tissues and investigated a potential proliferative effect of PRL in adrenal cells. mRNA expression of long and intermediate forms of PRLR was detected in both normal adrenal cortex as well as benign and malignant adrenal tumors and in the human adrenocortical carcinoma cell line NCI-H295. Molecular analysis of cells procured by LCM clearly demonstrated that PRLR mRNA is expressed in the adrenal cortex but not in the medulla. Immunostaining revealed PRLR protein in all three zones of the normal adrenal cortex. Furthermore, adrenal carcinomas and adenomas stained positive for the PRLR, while in phaeochromocytomas as in the normal adrenal medulla, no specific staining was observed. By WST-1 test, we could show that PRL (10(-7) M) decreased proliferation and viability of adrenal cells in primary cell culture suggesting that PRL is not a mitogenic factor of adrenocortical cells.