Prolactin and autoimmunity

Vânia Vieira Borba, Gisele Zandman-Goddard, Yehuda Shoenfeld*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review


The great asymmetry of autoimmune diseases between genders represents one of the most enigmatic observations among the mosaic of autoimmunity. Sex hormones are believed to play a crucial role on this dimorphism. The higher prevalence of autoimmunity among women at childbearing ages, disease onset/relapses during pregnancy, and post-partum are some of the arguments that support this hypothesis. Certainly, motherhood represents one of the most remarkable challenges for the immune system, which not only has to allow for the conceptus, but also has to deal with complex endocrine alterations. Hormonal homeostasis is known to exert a crucial influence in achieving a competent and healthy immune system. Prolactin (PRL) has a bioactive function acting as a hormone and a cytokine. It interferes with immune system modulation, mainly inhibiting the negative selection of autoreactive B lymphocytes. Likewise, hyperprolactinemia has been described in relation to the pathogenesis and activity of several autoimmune disorders. Dopamine is an effective inhibitor of PRL secretion due to either a direct influence on the hypophysis or stimulation of postsynaptic dopamine receptors in the hypothalamus, arousing the release of the PRL inhibitory factor. Hence, dopamine agonists have proven to offer clinical benefits among autoimmune patients and represent a promising therapy to be explored. In this review, we attempt to provide a critical overview of the link between PRL, autoimmune diseases, and motherhood.

Original languageEnglish
Article number73
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Issue numberFEB
StatePublished - 12 Feb 2018


  • Autoimmunity
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Prolactin
  • Sex hormones
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Systemic sclerosis


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