Pituitary-adrenal and thyroid effects on melatonin content of the rat pineal gland

Mark S. Bauer, Russell E. Poland, Peter C. Whybrow, Alan Frazer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Based on clinical findings of diminished nocturnal serum melatonin levels in affective illness, we hypothesized that alterations in the pituitary-adrenal or thyroid axes of the rat might alter the nocturnal rise of melatonin content of the pineal gland in that species. Two experiments were conducted to investigate these issues. In the first, rats were injected for nine days with adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) or corticosterone, timed to accentuate and prolong the normal circadian corticosterone rise. Although both these treatments produced significant elevations of serum corticosterone, there was no difference in pineal melatonin content during the day or night from that measured in control rats. In the second experiment, hypothyroidism was induced in rats by thyroid-parathyroidectomy, and hyperthyroidism was produced by injection of triiodothyronine (T3) for nine days. Despite clear evidence of metabolic and endocrine effects of these thyroid manipulations, pineal melatonin content was not altered during the day or night. The nocturnal increase of melatonin may have been phase-advanced in the hypothyroid group, although the experiment was not designed to detect such a shift. There thus is no evidence from this study in the rat to suggest that diminished nocturnal melatonin production in affective illness might be due to associated alterations in the pituitary-adrenal or thyroid systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-175
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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