Prolactin is a protein hormone that in female mammals initiates and maintains the secretion of milk, the mammary glands having been previously prepared for this function by the action of other hormones. In the female rat, prolactin also maintains the secretion of the hormone progesterone , which is formed by the corpus luteum , an endocrine gland of the ovary . Thus, prolactin is a gonadotropin , its target being an endocrine gland. Moreover, the molecular structures of prolactin and growth hormone are similar, which may explain why they show some overlap in biological properties. In particular, administration of prolactin promotes some growth in many terrestrial vertebrates. Human growth hormone has prolactin-like luteotropic properties.
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