Background and aims Prolactin has an immune stimulatory effect and may promote autoimmunity by encouraging the development of antigen presenting cells expressing MHC class II and co-stimulatory molecules and modulating IFN-γ secretion. This study aimed to evaluate the relationship between circulating prolactin level and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and to establish a correlation between plasma/serum prolactin levels and SLE activity.
Methods We performed a meta-analysis comparing the plasma/serum prolactin levels in patients with SLE to controls, and examined correlation coefficients between circulating prolactin level and SLE disease activity.
Results Twenty-five studies with a total of 1056 SLE patients and 426 controls were included. Prolactin levels were significantly higher overall in the SLE group than in the control group (SMD=0.987, 95% CI=0.512–1.463, p=4.7x10-5). Stratification by ethnicity showed significantly elevated prolactin levels in the SLE group in Asian, Latin American, and mixed populations (SMD=0.813, 95% CI=0.137–1.490, p=0.018; SMD=0.981, 95% CI=0.307–1.655, p=0.004; SMD=1.469, 95% CI=0.443–2.495, p=0.005, respectively), but not in the European population. Meta-analysis of correlation coefficients showed a significantly positive correlation between circulating prolactin level and SLE activity (Correlation coefficient=0.379, 95% CI=0.026–0.487, p=4.0x10-9).
Conclusions Our meta-analysis demonstrated that circulating prolactin levels are higher in patients with SLE and that a significantly positive correlation exists between prolactin levels and SLE activity.
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