Testicular development in Siberian hamsters depends on frequency and pattern of melatonin signals


We investigated the impact of frequency and pattern of melatonin signals on reproductive development in Siberian hamsters. Juvenile males gestated in short day lengths and housed in constant illumination to suppress melatonin secretion were infused with melatonin for 5 h either once or twice per day for 20 days. Melatonin infusions at either frequency produced equivalent increases in testes and body weights that exceeded those of animals infused with saline but were indistinguishable from those of hamsters transferred to long day lengths. The reproductive system appears to be maximally stimulated by a single short melatonin signal each day. Other animals kept from birth in a short photoperiod were treated 6 h after onset of darkness with the β-adrenergic receptor antagonist DL-propranolol to shorten melatonin secretion on the night of injection but not on subsequent nights. This permitted interpolation of short nightly melatonin signals of 4-5 h duration against a background of long melatonin signals of 10-12 h duration on other nights. Treatment regimes that maintained a 1:1 ratio of short to long melatonin signals for 8 wk stimulated reproductive development; a 1:2 signal ratio, in each of three different patterns, was uniformly ineffective. The number of successive short melatonin signals had little influence on the interval across which successive melatonin signals were summated to influence photoperiodic traits. The neuroendocrine axis appears more responsive to short melatonin signal frequency than pattern for development of the summer phenotype.

Publication Title

American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology