, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 87-92

Melatonin Effects on Serotonin Synthesis and Metabolism in the Striatum, Nucleus Accumbens, and Dorsal and Median Raphe Nuclei of Rats

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This work examined the influence of the pineal gland and its hormone melatonin on the metabolism of serotonin (5-HT) in discrete areas of the forebrain, such as the Striatum and the nucleus accumbens, and the midbrain raphe. The content of 5-HT and its major oxidative metabolite, the 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), as well as the in-vivo tryptophan hydroxylation rate were examined after long-term pinealectomy (one month) and daily melatonin treatment (500 μg/kg; twice daily for ten days) in pinealectomized rats. Pinealectomy did not alter 5-HT content in any of these brain areas, but it significantly increased the content of 5-HIAA in Striatum and the 5-HIAA/5-HT ratio in nucleus accumbens. The normal values of these parameters were recuperated after administration of exogenous melatonin, but it also increased the rate of tryptophan hydroxylation in both areas. In addition, melatonin treatment decreased the levels of 5-HIAA in dorsal raphe nucleus. These data suggest that the pineal gland, through the secretion of melatonin, modulates the local metabolism of 5-HT in forebrain areas by acting on the oxidative deamination. Moreover, melatonin injected in pinealectomized rats derives in a more extended effect than pinealectomy and induces a stimulation of 5-HT synthesis in the striatum, probably due to a pharmacological effect. These results point to the striatum as a target area for the interaction between pineal melatonin and the serotonergic function, and suggest a differential effect of the melatonin injected on areas containing serotonergic terminals and cell bodies, which may relevant for the mode of action of melatonin and its behavioral effects.