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Prolactin receptor expression by splenocytes from rats in various hormonal states
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Prolactin (PRL) is mitogenic for lymphocytes in vitro, but the responsiveness of lymphocytes depends on the in vivo hormonal status of the rats from which the cells were obtained. Lymphocytes from ovariectomized (OVX) rats, but not from rats in oestrus or from male rats, respond to prolactin; administration of oestradiol to OVX rats diminishes the response. In order to determine if a correlation exists between lymphocyte responsiveness to prolactin and levels of cell surface prolactin receptors (PRL-R) expression, the percentage of splenocytes and each splenocyte subpopulation expressing surface PRL-R from rats of various hormonal states (OVX, oestradiol-injected OVX, oestrus and male) was analysed by single-colour and dual-colour flow cytometric analysis. We found that approximately 20% of splenocytes expressed surface PRL-R regardless of hormonal states (n = 16). The majority (85%) of PRL-R positive splenocytes were B lymphocytes whereas 11.1% and 4.8% of splenocytes expressing the PRL-R were CD4 positive T-helper (TH) and CD8 positive T-cytotoxic (TC) lymphocytes, respectively. B lymphocytes also stained more brightly than T lymphocytes. This distribution of PRL-R expression did not show significant alterations on total splenocytes or TH and TC lymphocytes during various hormonal stages. However, the percentage of PRL-R-positive B lymphocytes increased markedly in OVX rats (twofold), compared to rats at oestrus. In summary, no correlation was found between the responsiveness to prolactin as a mitogen and levels of PRL-R expression by lymphocytes from rats at different hormonal states. This result suggests that sex steroid hormones may control prolactin responsiveness of lymphocytes by affecting the signal transduction pathway through PRL-R rather than by altering the level of the cell surface receptor expression.