Prolactin influences upon androgen action in male accessory sex organs

J A Thomas, E J Keenan
Advances in Sex Hormone Research 1976, 2: 425-70
The hormones of the pituitary gland are capable of directly influencing the function of male accessory sex organs. Among these hormones, prolactin in particular has been observed to enhance consistently the effects of androgens in the prostate gland and/or the seminal vesicles of rats, mice, and guinea pigs as well as in the accessory sex organs of other species. Prolactin-mediated augmentation of testosterone's effects upon these tissues is related primarily to the growth-promoting influences of this steroid. However, under certain experimental conditions, the androgen-dependent production of secretions by these organs has also been enhanced by prolactin treatment. Studies in the mouse have indicated that prolactin primarily enhances the proliferative phase of androgen action in male accessory sex tissues. Testosterone stimulation of RNA synthesis was unaffected by simultaneous administration of prolactin. The mechanism by which prolactin causes enhanced androgen responses in the prostate gland and seminal vesicles is not well understood. It would appear, however, that prolactin neither stimulates increased accumulation of androgen into the accessory sex organs, nor does it enhance the conversion of testosterone to the more "active" androgen, dihydrotestosterone. The effects of prolactin on these tissues are, however, dependent upon the presence of dihydrotestosterone. Uncertain, at present, are the possible effects of prolactin on the binding or retention of androgens (dihydrotestosterone?) in the prostate gland or in the seminal vesicles. There is evidence that hypophysectomy reduces the nuclear binding of dihydrotestosterone in the cells of the prostate gland. Perhaps prolactin is a pituitary factor(s) which is important in regulating nuclear binding of dihydrotestosterone in male accessory sex organs. The direct influences of prolactin upon androgen action in the cells of the accessory sex organs may involve several sites of action (Figure 2). For example, it is currently understood that when testosterone enters the cell cytoplasm it is subsequently converted to the more "active" androgen, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), by reduction at the 5alpha position. Dihydrotestosterone is then either bound to a cytoplasmic "receptor" protein (Rc) or is further metabolized to either 5alpha-androstane-3alpha,17beta-diol or 5alpha-androstane-3beta,17beta-diol (DIOL). The binding of DHT to its cytoplasmic receptor protein results in translocation of the steroid-receptor complex into the nucleus where presumably the complex dissociates and DHT exerts its androgenic effects. The transport of DHT to the nucleus can also result from the conversion of testosterone to DHT by nuclear membrane-bound 5alpha-reductase. Prolactin augmentation of DHT effects is envisioned as resulting from interaction of prolactin with its receptor, which due to the large size of the prolactin molecule is probably located in or on the plasma membrane...

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