Prolactin - a pleiotropic factor in health and disease.
The principal role of prolactin in mammals is the regulation of lactation. Prolactin is a hormone that is mainly synthesized and secreted by lactotroph cells in the anterior pituitary gland. Prolactin signalling occurs via a unique transmembrane prolactin receptor (PRL-R). The structure of the PRL-R has now been elucidated and is similar to that of many biologically fundamental receptors of the class 1 haematopoietic cytokine receptor family such as the growth hormone receptor. The PRL-R is expressed in a wide array of tissues, and a growing number of biological processes continue to be attributed to prolactin. In this Review, we focus on the newly discovered roles of prolactin in human health and disease, particularly its involvement in metabolic homeostasis including body weight control, adipose tissue, skin and hair follicles, pancreas, bone, the adrenal response to stress, the control of lactotroph cell homeostasis and maternal behaviour. New data concerning the pathological states of hypoprolactinaemia and hyperprolactinaemia will also be presented and discussed.