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Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1991 Oct;198(1):513-27.

Prolactin and growth hormone in the regulation of the immune system.

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Department of Physiology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan 48201.


Evidence implicating prolactin (PRL) and growth hormone (GH) in the regulation of the immune system has been reviewed. Hypophysectomized animals have deficiencies in both cell-mediated and humoral immunological functions and either PRL or GH corrects these deficiencies. Animals administered bromocryptine, a drug that specifically blocks PRL release, have impaired immune responses similar to hypophysectomized animals, and again both PRL and GH correct these deficiencies. Genetically dwarf animals, which lack both PRL and GH, are also immunocompromised, and once again PRL and GH can correct the deficiencies. In dwarf animals, however, fewer studies have examined PRL actions. In growth-deficient children, immune function is not dramatically altered and basal secretion of GH has been reported. Very few clinical studies have examined whether PRL secretion is also deficient, and this may explain why a clear loss in immune function is not evident in growth-deficient children. In a number of species, including man, both PRL and GH stimulate thymic function and increase the secretion of thymulin, a thymic hormone. No studies, however, have reported on the effects of PRL and GH on other thymic hormones. A number of studies have reported in vitro effects of PRL and GH on cells involved with immunity, and the presence of high-affinity PRL and GH receptors have been observed on a number of these cells. The action of GH on the proliferative response of cells involved with immunity in vitro appears to be mediated by the production of insulin-like growth factor I. The effect of PRL on insulin-like growth factor I production by these cells has not been examined. One of the most consistent findings from in vitro studies is that prolactin antisera blocked a number of immune reactions. This led to the discovery that cells involved with immunity appear capable of producing PRL and GH, but the physiological significance of these observations have not been explored. There is a great need to identify the cell types responding to PRL and GH and this should be a goal of future investigations. There is also a need for investigators to be aware that both PRL and GH are involved in the regulation of the immune system and to design experiments to elucidate where each functions in the maturation cascade of cells involved with immunity. From the evidence available, it is apparent that PRL and GH have an important function in the immune system and future investigations should be directed toward elucidating their site(s) of action.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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