Prolactin is widely expressed in different tissues, and it is presumed to have both local and systemic actions. In males it is known to influence reproductive functions but the significance and mechanisms of prolactin action in male accessory reproductive tissues are poorly understood. Here we show that prolactin acts as a direct growth and differentiation factor for human prostate, as measured by changes in DNA synthesis and epithelial morphology of organ cultures. Furthermore, we report the expression in human prostate of a short prolactin receptor form in addition to the long form, based upon ligand cross-linking studies and RT-PCR analysis of mRNA expression. The highest density of prolactin receptors was detected in the secretory epithelial cells by immunohistochemistry. Finally, we report that prolactin is locally produced in human prostate epithelium, as evidenced by marked prolactin immunoreactivity in a significant portion of prostate epithelial cells, with parallel expression of prolactin mRNA in human prostate. Collectively, these data provide significant support for the existence of an autocrine/paracrine loop of prolactin in the human prostate and may shed new light on the involvement of prolactin in the etiology and progression of neoplastic growth of the prostate.
M T Nevalainen, E M Valve, P M Ingleton, M Nurmi, P M Martikainen, P L Harkonen