Estrogen modulates the nocturnal synthesis of melatonin in peripubertal female rats
ABSTRACT Our objective was to evaluate the effects of estrogen deficit and of estrogen stimulation on the synthesis of pineal melatonin in female rats during the peripubertal period. The levels of melatonin and N-acetylserotonin (NAS) and the activities of N-acetyltransferase (NAT) and hydroxyindole-O-methyltransferase (HIOMT) were determined in homogenates of pineal glands obtained from peripubertal female Sprague- Dawley rats 4 to 12 weeks of age in the mid-dark during the daily light/dark cycle. Animals were ovariectomized at 4 weeks of age; daily administration of estradiol benzoate (E2B, 1.0 μg/d, s.c.) was initiated at 4 weeks of age. A peak in the pineal levels of melatonin and NAS and in NAT activity was observed in untreated (control) rats with intact ovaries at 6 weeks. HIOMT activity increased from Week 4 to 6 and remained unchanged thereafter. Ovariectomy at Week 4 led to significant increases in the levels of melatonin and of NAS and NAT in activity at Week 8. NAT activity Week 10 resembled that of control animals, but levels of melatonin and NAS were slightly elevated. Ovariectomy did not affect HIOMT activity. Subcutaneous injection of E2B significantly decreased the levels of melatonin and NAS and of NAT activity at Week 4, as compared with those in control rats. E2B suppressed the ovariectomy-induced elevation of levels of melatonin and NAS and of NAT activity, similar to the effect in control animals. E2B did not affect HIOMT activity. Our results suggest that estrogen modulates the nocturnal synthesis of melatonin in the pineal gland in peripubertal female rats. The effects of estrogen on melatonin synthesis appeared to be mediated by the modulation of NAT activity.