Prolactin is an important regulator of multiple biological functions in vertebrates, and has been viewed as essential to ion uptake as well as reduction in ion and water permeability of osmoregulatory surfaces in freshwater and euryhaline fish. Prolactin-releasing peptide seems to stimulate prolactin expression in the pituitary and peripheral organs during freshwater adaptation. Growth hormone, a member of the same family of hormones as prolactin, promotes acclimation to seawater in several teleost fish, at least in part through the action of insulin-like growth factor I. In branchial epithelia, development and differentiation of the seawater-type chloride cell (and their underlying biochemistry) is regulated by GH, IGF-I, and cortisol, whereas the freshwater-type chloride cell is regulated by prolactin and cortisol. In the epithelia of gastrointestinal tract, prolactin induces cell proliferation during freshwater adaptation, whereas cortisol stimulates both cell proliferation and apoptosis. We propose that control of salinity acclimation in teleosts by prolactin and growth hormone primarily involves regulation of cell proliferation, apoptosis, and differentiation (the latter including upregulation of specific ion transporters), and that there is an important interaction of these hormones with corticosteroids. © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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