Despite its extensive repertoire of biological activities, which include the growth - and osmoregulation of epithelial tissues as well as immunoregulatory properties, the potential significance of the pituitary hormone prolactin (PRL) for human skin biology and pathology has yet to be fully appreciated. In this essay, the hypothesis is presented that PRL acts as a neuroendocrine modulator of skin epithelial cell proliferation and of the skin immune system by forming a 'prolactin-circuit' between the central nervous system and the skin. Binding to specific skin receptors, modulation of cytokine release in the skin, and stimulation of somatomedin release by mesenchymal cells are among the suggested pathways by which PRL could affect epithelial cell growth in the skin. Potential feedback signals, arising from the skin and modifying pituitary PRL release, are briefly outlined. Centering on the role of PRL in both psoriasis and hair growth as models for studying the proposed PRL-skin connection, clinical and experimental evidence in support of this theory is discussed in the context of a 'neuroimmune-dermatological' perspective.
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