Secretory Patterns of Pineal Melatonin in the Rat
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The release patterns of pineal melatonin were studied by continuously monitoring melatonin levels in the confluens sinuum plasma in sighted and bilaterally enucleated rats in the light and dark periods. Plasma melatonin was determined by radioimmunoassay, and the data were analyzed by a computerized algorithm developed in our laboratory. Pulsations of melatonin levels were found in the confluens sinuum plasma in all the animals studied, suggesting episodic secretion of pineal melatonin in rats. Because the minimum melatonin levels in the confluens sinuum were over three times the melatonin levels in the general circulation, it is postulated that 1) there is an episodic release pattern of pineal melatonin superimposed on a basal release pattern and 2) there are two pools of melatonin in the pineal gland, a readily releasible pool responsible for the basal release and a bound pool responsible for the pulsatile release. In the sighted rats, there was no diurnal difference in mean melatonin concentration, mean pulse amplitude, mean pulse rate, mean minimum melatonin level, and mean maximum melatonin level in the confluens sinuum. In the bilaterally enucleated rats, with the exception of the mean pulse amplitude, diurnal rhythms were demonstrated in all the other parameters studied with, higher values in the dark period. This experimental model should be employed in future investigations on the regulation of secretory patterns of pineal melatonin. Results of these studies may provide important insight into the regulation of pulsatile release of neuroendocrine secretions in general.