We have compared melatonin effects in two different cell types in order to determine general intracellular mechanisms of its action. In neonatal rat pituitary, melatonin acts via the specific membrane receptors to inhibit GnRH-induced LH release. The melatonin effect disappears in adulthood due to the disappearance of the receptors. The mechanism of the melatonin action involves inhibition of the GnRH induced increase of intracellular calcium ( [Ca2+])i. Our observations indicate that melatonin has dual inhibitory effect on GnRH-induced [Ca2+]i: it inhibits mobilisation of Ca2+ from endoplasmic reticulum as well as Ca2+ influx through voltage sensitive channels. Besides, melatonin also decreases basal and GnRH- or forskolin-induced increase of cAMP concentration in the pituitary. Although cAMP is not of primary importance for regulation of LH release, the cAMP decrease may participate in the mechanism of inhibitory melatonin action on LH release.
Rat suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) have a high density of the melatonin receptors throughout the postnatal life. Cultures of dispersed SCN cells show circadian rhythm of vasopressin (AVP) release, with several fold increase in the middle of the day and decrease during night. Melatonin inhibits the spontaneous AVP release. Melatonin also inhibits the AVP release induced by vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP). Intracellular mechanisms of the melatonin effect may involve cAMP, because melatonin inhibits the VIP-induced increase of cAMP and increase of cAMP formation by forskolin stimulates AVP release from the cultures. On the other hand, involvement of intracellular calcium in the regulation of AVP release may not be excluded. VIP induces [Ca2+]i increase in 14% of the SCN cells and AVP release is stimulated by Ca2+ ionophore ionomycin. Our observations indicate that some of the mechanisms of melatonin action are similar in the pituitary and SCN.
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