The paraventricular thalamus serves as a nexus in the regulation of stress and immunity


Many temperate zone animals exhibit seasonal rhythms in physiology and behavior, including seasonal cycles of reproduction, energetics, stress responsiveness, and immune function, among many others. These rhythms are driven by seasonal changes in the duration of pineal melatonin secretion. The neural melatonin target tissues that mediate several of these rhythms have been identified, though the target(s) mediating melatonin's regulation of glucocorticoid secretion, immune cell numbers, and bacterial killing capacity remain unspecified. The present results indicate that one melatonin target tissue, the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVT), is necessary for the expression of these seasonal rhythms. Thus, while radiofrequency ablations of the PVT failed to alter testicular and body mass response to short photoperiod exposure, they did block the effect of short day lengths on cortisol secretion and bacterial killing efficacy. These results are consistent with the independent regulation by separate neural circuits of several physiological traits that vary seasonally in mammals.

Publication Title

Brain, Behavior, and Immunity