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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Sep;89(9):4445-9.

Prolactin release is enhanced in proportion to excess visceral fat in obese women.

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Leiden University Medical Center, Department of Internal Medicine (C4-83), P.O. Box 9600, 2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands.


Prolactin (PRL) promotes (visceral) fat accrual in a variety of animal models. The release of PRL by the pituitary is tonically inhibited by dopamine through activation of the dopamine D2 receptor (D2R) of lactotroph cells, and obese humans appear to have reduced D2R-binding sites in their brain. Therefore, we hypothesized that spontaneous PRL release is enhanced in obese humans. To evaluate this hypothesis, we measured 24-h plasma PRL concentrations at 10-min intervals in 11 obese premenopausal women [body mass index (BMI), 33.3 +/- 0.7 kg/m(2)] and 10 lean premenopausal women of similar age (BMI, 21.2 +/- 0.6 kg/m(2)). Total body fat was determined using dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, and sc and visceral fat area was measured by magnetic resonance imaging in 10 obese subjects. PRL secretion rate was estimated by deconvolution analysis. All subjects were studied in the early follicular stage of their menstrual cycle. PRL secretion was significantly enhanced in obese women (total daily release, 137 +/- 8; lean controls, 92 +/- 8 microg/liter.24 h; P = 0.001) in proportion to their BMI (r(2) = 0.55; P < 0.001). Interestingly, PRL release was particularly associated with the size of the visceral fat mass (total PRL secretion vs. visceral fat area, r(2) = 0.64; P = 0.006). These data show that spontaneous PRL release is considerably enhanced in obese women in proportion to the size of their visceral fat mass. Because PRL is inhibited by D2R activation we speculate that elevated PRL secretion may be due to reduced D2R availability in the brain.

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