Central and peripheral actions of melatonin on reproduction in seasonal and continuous breeding mammals

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Abstract

Under field conditions, especially for mammals that inhabit high latitudes, the regulation of seasonal breeding activity to ensure delivery of the young at the time most conducive to their survival is essential. This is most frequently accomplished by the annual reproductive cycle being linked to seasonal photoperiod changes which determine the nocturnal duration of the pineal melatonin signal. Mating can occur during any season that ensures spring/early summer delivery of the offspring. Thus, the season of mating is determined by the duration of pregnancy. The precise hormonal control of the annual cycle of reproduction by melatonin is accomplished at the level of the hypothalamo-pituitary axis which, in turn, determines the physiological state of the gonad and adnexa due to the regulation of pituitary gonadotrophin release. Many species are continuous rather than seasonal breeders. In these species, melatonin has a minor hormonal influence on the central regulation of reproduction but, nevertheless, its antioxidant functions at the level of the gonads support optimal reproductive physiology. Possibly like all cells, those in the ovary, e.g., granulosa cells and oocytes (less is known about melatonin synthesis by the testes or spermatogenic cells), synthesize melatonin which is used locally to combat free radicals and reactive nitrogen species which would otherwise cause oxidative/nitrosative stress to these critically important cells. Oxidative damage to the oocyte, zygote, blastocyst, etc., results in an abnormal fetus which is either sloughed or gives rise to an unhealthy offspring. The importance of the protection of the gametes (both oocytes and sperm) from oxidative molecular mutilation cannot be overstated. Fortunately, as a highly effective free radical scavenger and indirect antioxidant (by upregulating antioxidant enzyme), locally-produced melatonin is in the optimal location to protect the reproductive system from such damage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113620
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
Volume300
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

Keywords

  • Follicular cells
  • Meiosis
  • Oocyte
  • Ovulation
  • Seasonal reproduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology

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