The Harderian glands in Syrian hamsters exhibit a striking sexual dimorphism. Male Harderian glands show two cell types and low levels of porphyrins and melatonin. Of the enzymes involved in the synthesis of melatonin, N‐acetyltransferase (NAT) and hydroxyindole‐O‐methyltransferase (HIOMT) show high and low activity levels, respectively. Female Harderian glands show but one cell type and have high porphyrin and melatonin levels, low NAT activity, and high HIOMT activity. In castrated males, the Harderian glands exhibit a female pattern of morphology, porphyrin levels, and indoleamine metabolism. In an attempt to determine whether prolactin is involved in this sexually dimorphic response of the Harderian glands, intact and castrated male and intact female hamsters were injected daily with 500 μg of bromocriptine, a dopamine agonist. Bromocriptine led to reduced serum prolactin levels in all groups. It had no apparent effect on the Harderian glands of intact males. In contrast, in castrated males bromocriptine prevented the postcastrational rise in porphyrin levels but had no effect on NAT or HIOMT activities. In females, bromocriptine treatment had no effect on prophyrin concentrations or HIOMT activity; it led to a statistically significant increase in NAT activity. We propose that testosterone inhibits Harderian porphyrin synthesis while dopamine or prolactin stimulates it.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology