Prolactin (PRL) is a polypeptide hormone produced by the anterior pituitary gland and other sites that acts both systemically and locally to cause lactation and other biological effects by interacting with the PRL receptor, a Janus kinase (JAK)2-coupled cytokine receptor family member, and activating downstream signal pathways. Recent evidence suggests PRL is a player in the pathogenesis and progression of breast cancer. Epidermal growth factor (EGF) also has effects on breast tissue, working through its receptors, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and ErbB-2 (c-neu, HER2), both intrinsic tyrosine kinase growth factor receptors. EGFR promotes pubertal breast ductal morphogenesis in mice, and both EGFR and ErbB-2 are relevant in pathogenesis and behavior of breast and other human cancers. Previous studies showed that PRL and EGF synergize to enhance motility in the human breast cancer cell line, T47D. In this study, we explored crosstalk between the PRL and EGF signaling pathways in T47D cells, with an ultimate aim of understanding how these two important factors might work together in vivo to affect breast cancer behavior. Both PRL and EGF caused robust signaling in T47D cells; PRL acutely activated JAK2, signal transducer and activator of transcription-5 (STAT5), and extracellular signal-regulated kinase-1 and -2 (ERK1 and ERK2), whereas EGF caused EGFR activation and consequent src homology collagen (SHC) activation and ERK activation. Notably, PRL also caused phosphorylation of the EGFR and ErbB-2 at sites detected by PTP101, an antibody that recognizes threonine phosphorylation at consensus motifs for ERK-induced phosphorylation. PRL-induced PTP101-reactive phosphorylation was prevented by pretreatment with PD98059, an ERK pathway inhibitor. Furthermore, PRL synergized with EGF in activating SHC and ERK and transactivating a luciferase reporter driven by c-fos gene enhancer elements, suggesting that PRL allowed markedly enhanced EGF signaling. This was accompanied by substantial inhibition of EGF-induced EGFR downregulation when PRL and EGF cotreatment was compared to EGF treatment alone. This effect of PRL was abrogated by ERK pathway inhibitor pretreatment. Our data suggest that PRL synergistically augments EGF signaling in T47D breast cancer cells at least in part by lessening EGF-induced EGFR downregulation and that this effect requires PRL-induced ERK activity and threonine phosphorylation of EGFR. © 2006 Nature Publishing Group All rights reserved.