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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 2012, Article ID 167132, 7 pages
Review Article

Macroprolactinemia: Diagnostic, Clinical, and Pathogenic Significance

1Clinical Research Institute, National Hospital Organization Kyoto Medical Center, 1-1 Mukaihata-cho, Fukakusa, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto 612-8555, Japan
2Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Ritsumeikan University, Shiga 525-8577, Japan

Received 12 September 2012; Revised 2 November 2012; Accepted 8 November 2012

Academic Editor: Xavier Bossuyt

Copyright © 2012 Akira Shimatsu and Naoki Hattori. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Macroprolactinemia is characterized by a large molecular mass of PRL (macroprolactin) as the main molecular form of PRL in sera, the frequent elevation of serum PRL (hyperprolactinemia), and the lack of symptoms. Macroprolactin is largely a complex of PRL with immunoglobulin G (IgG), especially anti-PRL autoantibodies. The prevalence of macroprolactinemia is 10–25% in patients with hyperprolactinemia and 3.7% in general population. There is no gender difference and a long-term followup demonstrates that macroprolactinemia develops before middle age and is likely a chronic condition. Polyethylene-glycol- (PEG-) precipitation method is widely used for screening macroprolactinemia, and gel filtration chromatography, protein A/G column, and -PRL binding studies are performed to confirm and clarify its nature. The cross-reactivity of macroprolactin varies widely according to the immunoassay systems. The epitope on PRL molecule recognized by the autoantibodies is located close to the binding site for PRL receptors, which may explain that macroprolactin has a lower biological activity. Hyperprolactinemia frequently seen in macroprolactinemic patients is due to the delayed clearance of autoantibody-bound PRL. When rats are immunized with rat pituitary PRL, anti-PRL autoantibodies are produced and hyperprolactinemia develops, mimicking macroprolactinemia in humans. Screening of macroprolactinemia is important for the differential diagnosis of hyperprolactinemia to avoid unnecessary examinations and treatments.