The hypothalamic neuroendocrine dopaminergic (NEDA) neurons are crucial in regulating prolactin secretion from the anterior pituitary. Rising prolactin concentrations stimulate these neurons to secrete dopamine, which acts via the pituitary portal vasculature to inhibit additional prolactin release. Prolactin is known to activate Janus kinase (JAK)-signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) signaling pathways in other cell types, including neurons. The possible role of JAK-STAT signaling in NEDA neurons has therefore been examined in this study using fetal rat mediobasal hypothalamic cell cultures and an adult rat in vivo preparation. Cultured cells expressing the dopamine synthesizing enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) responded to prolactin with a time-dependent increase in phospho-STAT5, but not phospho-STAT1 or phospho-STAT3, nuclear labeling. This response was inhibited by the prolactin receptor antagonist Δ1-9-G129R-human prolactin and the JAK inhibitor AG490, but was unaffected by selected serine/threonine kinase inhibitors (H89, KN-93, bisindolymaleimide, or PD98059). Antibodies selective for STAT5a or STAT5b indicated that the response was restricted to STAT5b, with the number of TH cells displaying STAT5b nuclear immunoreactivity rising from less than 10% under basal conditions to approximately 70% after prolactin stimulation. STAT5a nuclear labeling remained unchanged at 6-10% of TH-positive cells. STAT5b selectivity was confirmed in vivo, where the injection of prolactin into bromocriptine-treated rats stimulated a time-dependent increase in STAT5b, but not STAT5a, nuclear staining in the TH-expressing neurons in the arcuate nucleus. These results extend our previous findings with STAT5b-deficient mice and strongly suggest that in NEDA neurons, prolactin signaling via the JAK/STAT pathway is mediated exclusively by STAT5b.