Prolactin receptors and the immune system

Published on Thursday, 30 May 2013


The existence of a physiological immunoneuroendocrine network clearly contributing to homeostasis has now been demonstrated. In this context, nervous, endocrine, and immune systems communicate with each other, using common mediators and respective receptors.

An interesting aspect of this network involves the interactions between prolactin (PRL) and the immune system. Prolactin plays a significant role in regulation of the humoral and cellular immune responses in physiological as well as pathological situations, such as autoimmune diseases. This role is exerted via the existence of specific receptors on cells on the immune system.

Recently, using monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) raised against the extracellular domain of the rat liver PRL-receptor (PRL-R), we demonstrated by immunochemistry and molecular biology the presence of functional PRL receptors on thymic epithelial cells, one of the major components of the thymic microenvironment, which significantly influences early events in T-cell differentiation. Furthermore, using analytical fluocytometry, we showed that human and murine lymphoid cells also expressed PRL receptors.

In both of the primary lymphoid organs, namely the thymus and bone marrow, more than 80% of cells expressed this receptor. In the periphery, all B cells and macrophages and 70% of T cells, with similar percentages of CD4+ and CD8+ cells, were PRL-R+.

The density of receptors was lower on T cells than on B cells and macrophages, but this density was significantly enhanced following stimulation by T cell mitogens.

These data, together with the demonstration of PRL production by thymocytes led to the hypothesis that, in addition to the classical endocrine pathway, autocrine and paracrine PRL/PRL-R interactions may exist in both central and peripheral lymphoid organs, and involve lymphocytes and microenvironmental cells.


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