Prolactin and autoimmunity: The hormone as an inflammatory cytokine

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Nowadays, more than 80 autoimmune disorders are recognized, in which an aberrant immune response against different organs and tissues plays a crucial role. Hormonal homeostasis has great influence in achieving competent and healthy immune system function. Prolactin has a bioactive function acting as a hormone and a cytokine. It influences the immune system modulation, mainly inhibiting the negative selection of autoreactive B lymphocytes. Hyperprolactinemia has been detected in many patients with different autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjögren syndrome, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune thyroid disease, systemic sclerosis, among others, and its believed to play a crucial role in disease pathogenesis. A direct correlation between prolactin levels and disease activity was not clear. Genetic factors may have a role in humans as in animal models. Dopamine agonists have proven to offer clinical benefits among autoimmune patients and represent a promising therapy to be explored. In this review, the authors attempt to provide a critical overview on the role of prolactin in the immune system, exploring its contribution to the development of autoimmune diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101324
JournalBest Practice and Research: Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • autoimmune diseases
  • hyperprolactinemia
  • multiple sclerosis
  • prolactin
  • systemic lupus erythematosus
  • systemic sclerosis


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