Prepubertal (21–22 days) female Sprague-Dawley rats were caged singly in either long (LP; 14:10 LD) or short (SP; 8:16 LD) photoperiod and fed ad libitum or underfed (1 /2 the food intake of controls). Additionally, a fed and underfed group in LP received a daily sc injection of saline or 100 μg melatonin at 1700 h. Food restriction delayed vaginal opening and resulted in a reduction in body weight and in the weights of the pituitary, ovary and uterus in all underfed groups. Melatonin treatment (but not SP exposure) significantly enhanced the reduction in pituitary, ovarian and uterine weight compared to the underfed saline-treated controls. Thyroid weights were significantly increased in underfed LP and SP groups compared to their respective controls where melatonin treatment in either fed or underfed animals was ineffective. Underfeeding caused a significant rise in pituitary LH (except for SP-underfed group) and FSH concentrations and a fall in pituitary prolactin concentrations and plasma T3 levels. Melatonin injections in underfed rats significantly increased pituitary LH and FSH and decreased prolactin concentrations compared to underfed saline-treated animals. Plasma prolactin levels increased after melatonin administration in both fed and underfed rats. These observations emphasize that environmental influences such as undernutrition can alter the physiological status of immature animals and enhance the sensitivity of the neuroendocrine axis to the pineal and one of its hormones, melatonin.
- female rat
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism