Control of melatonin synthesis in the mammalian pineal gland: the critical role of serotonin acetylation
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The large daily rhythm in circulating melatonin levels is a highly conserved feature of vertebrate physiology: high values always occur at night. The dynamics of the rhythm are controlled by the next-to-last enzyme in melatonin synthesis (serotonin → N-acetylserotonin → melatonin), arylalkylamine N-acetyltransferase (AANAT), the "melatonin rhythm enzyme". In vertebrate biology, AANAT plays a unique time-keeping role as the molecular interface between the environment and the hormonal signal of time, melatonin. This chapter describes the mammalian AANAT regulatory system, which includes the retina, neural structures, transsynaptic processes, and molecular events. In addition, special attention is paid to the functional characteristics of the systems which insure that the nocturnal increase in melatonin is an accurate and reliable indicator of the duration of the night, and why the melatonin rhythm is the most reliable output signal of the Mind's Clock.
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