Light-related melatonin changes in pituitary response to gonadotropin-releasing hormone during sexual development in the female rabbit.
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Melatonin levels in the blood of female rabbits were determined from the time of weaning to adulthood in a longitudinal study. Blood samples were taken at 3 h after light onset and 1 h after dark onset and plasma was analysed for melatonin, LH and FSH by radioimmunoassay procedures. The animals were sacrificed on days 25, 32, 39, 51, 72, 91 and 120 days of life and pituitaries removed for in vitro incubation of slices to determine their response to GnRH. Circulating melatonin levels were significantly higher in the dark compared to the light phase and peaked on days 72 and 91 when gonadotropin levels were at a nadir. Melatonin levels on day 120 were lower than those on any other day examined. Basal secretion of LH and FSH by pituitary slices in vitro increased several-fold from day 25 of age to days 51-91 and then decreased by day 120. The pituitary gonadotropin responsiveness to GnRH in vitro was also different: while LH generally increased, FHS accumulation remained constant after GnRH stimulation. These data suggest that the female rabbit pituitary undergoes changes in sensitivity to GnRH during sexual maturation and that the pineal gland may play a role in this process.
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