Seven experiments were performed to investigate the sensitivity of the hamster pineal gland to exogenously administered norepinephrine (NE). In these studies NE (1 mg/kg) administration was preceded (10 min earlier) by the injection of the catecholamine uptake inhibitor desmethylimipramine (DMI; 5 mg/kg). When DMI and NE were given at night, the hamsters were exposed to light to depress pineal N-acetyltransferase activity and melatonin values to lower levels; the drugs were then given 20 (DMI) and 30 (NE) min later, and the subsequent changes in pineal N-acetyltransferase and melatonin were monitored. The combination of DMI and NE administration anytime during the normal light period or during the first 4 h of the normal dark period failed to stimulate either pineal N-acetyltransferase activity or melatonin levels. Conversely, DMI followed by NE (injected either intraperitoneally or subcutaneously) in the second half of the dark phase typically stimulated pineal melatonin production. Likewise, the NE agonist isoproterenol promoted pineal melatonin production only in the latter half of the dark phase. If hamsters were exposed to continue light at night or if they were superior cervical ganglionectomized, a procedure which sympathetically denervates the pineal gland, the stimulatory effect of NE on melatonin production was significantly suppressed. Thus, the hamster pineal gland is sensitive to NE only during the latter half of the normal dark period and both darkness and an intact sympathetic innervation to the pineal gland are required for the gland to develop maximal sensitivity to the catecholamine. Also, the hamster pineal seems not to exhibit a supersensitivity response to NE following a period of reduced exposure to the catecholamine. The normal nocturnal rise in melatonin production in the hamster pineal gland seems to be determined by two parameters: an increased production and secretion of NE by sympathetic nerve endings in the pineal at night and (2) an increased sensitivity of the β-receptors on the pinealocyte membranes to NE during the late dark phase.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience