Photoperiodic control of oestrous cycles in Syrian hamsters: Mediation by the mediobasal hypothalamus


To assess whether the mediobasal hypothalamus (MBH) is necessary for photoperiodic control of oestrous cycles and prolactin secretion, we tested intact female Syrian hamsters (controls) and those that had sustained unilateral or bilateral lesions of the MBH. All hamsters displayed 4-day oestrous cycles postoperatively in the long-day photoperiod (14 h light/day); control females and those with unilateral MBH damage ceased to undergo oestrous cycles approximately 8 weeks after transfer to a short-day photocycle (10 h light/day), whereas 12 of 15 females with bilateral MBH lesions continued to generate 4-day oestrous cycles throughout 22 weeks in short days. Serum prolactin concentrations were either undetectable or low in all hamsters 8 or 14 weeks after the transfer to short-day lengths, but increased above long-day baseline values by week 22. We conclude that melatonin-binding sites in the MBH mediate suppression of oestrous cycles but not prolactin secretion by short-day lengths; recovery of prolactin secretion in females during prolonged exposure to short-day lengths reflects development of refractoriness to melatonin in a substrate distinct from the MBH. These findings suggest that separate neural pathways mediate photoperiodic control of gonadotropin and prolactin secretion in female hamsters.

Publication Title

Journal of Neuroendocrinology