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Melatonin receptor activation suppresses PRL expression and secretion by lactotrope GH3 cells.MT2 activation regulates PRL level by suppressing cAMP, BMP-Smad and ERK pathways.BMP-4 induces PRL expression but also upregulates MT2 as a possible feedback loop.The effects of melatonin on prolactin production and its regulatory mechanism remain uncertain. We investigated the regulatory role of melatonin in prolactin production using rat pituitary lactotrope GH3 cells by focusing on the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) system. Melatonin receptor activation, induced by melatonin and its receptor agonist ramelteon, significantly suppressed basal and forskolin-induced prolactin secretion and prolactin mRNA expression in GH3 cells. The melatonin MT2 receptor was predominantly expressed in GH3 cells, and the inhibitory effects of melatonin on prolactin production were reversed by treatment with the receptor antagonist luzindole, suggesting functional involvement of MT2 action in the suppression of prolactin release. Melatonin receptor activation also suppressed BMP-4-induced prolactin expression by inhibiting phosphorylation of Smad and transcription of the BMP-target gene Id-1, while BMP-4 treatment upregulated MT2 expression. Melatonin receptor activation suppressed basal, BMP-4-induced and forskolin-induced cAMP synthesis; however, BtcAMP-induced prolactin mRNA expression was not affected by melatonin or ramelteon, suggesting that MT2 activation leads to inhibition of prolactin production through the suppression of Smad signaling and cAMP synthesis. Experiments using intracellular signal inhibitors revealed that the ERK pathway is, at least in part, involved in prolactin induction by GH3 cells. Thus, a new regulatory role of melatonin involving BMP-4 in prolactin secretion was uncovered in lactotrope GH3 cells.