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Circannual Alterations in the Circadian Rhythm of Melatonin Secretion

Journal of Biological Rhythms
SAGE Publications
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To determine if a circadian rhythm known to be functionally related to the reproductive axis varies on a circannual basis, we monitored the circadian secretion of melatonin at monthly intervals for 2 years in four ovariectomized, estradiol-implanted ewes held in a constant short-day photoperiod. Prior to the study, ewes had been housed in a short-day (8L:16D) photoperiod for 4 years and were exhibiting circannual reproductive rhythms as assessed by serum luteinizing hormone (LH) levels. Three of the four sheep showed unambiguous deviations from the expected nocturnal melatonin secretion at two different times approximately 1 year apart. Nocturnal rises in melatonin, which usually last the duration of the dark phase, were delayed by 3-14 h or were missing. Altogether, five of the seven melatonin alterations observed in these three ewes occurred during the nadir of the circannual LH cycle. In the remaining ewe, we did not observe an altered melatonin secretory pattern during this period, and this ewe also failed to show a high amplitude circannual cycle of LH. The results provide evidence for a circannual change in the circadian rhythm of melatonin secretion. This alteration in melatonin secretion may serve as a "functional" change in daylength, and thereby may influence the expression of the circannual reproductive rhythm of sheep held in a fixed photoperiod for an extended time.

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