Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 153, Supplement 1, pp 235–243 | Cite as

Control of circadian activity of birds by the interaction of melatonin with 7α-hydroxypregnenolone, a newly discovered neurosteroid stimulating locomotion

  • Kazuyoshi TsutsuiEmail author
  • Shogo Haraguchi
  • Kazuhiko Inoue
  • Hitomi Miyabara
  • Saori Suzuki
  • Takayoshi Ubuka


Melatonin regulates diurnal locomotor rhythms in birds as well as in other vertebrates, but the molecular mechanism by which melatonin regulates locomotor activity is poorly understood. Here, we summarize new findings showing that 7α-hydroxypregnenolone, a previously undescribed avian neurosteroid, mediates melatonin action on diurnal locomotor rhythms in birds. Recently, 7α-hydroxypregnenolone was identified as a novel avian neurosteroid in Japanese quail Coturnix japonica brain. It was found that 7α-hydroxypregnenolone acutely stimulates quail locomotor activity. Subsequently, it was clarified that diurnal changes in 7α-hydroxypregnenolone synthesis occur in parallel with changes in locomotor activity in quail. Finally, it was demonstrated that melatonin depresses the synthesis of 7α-hydroxypregnenolone, thus providing a mechanism through which the nocturnal increase in melatonin regulates diurnal changes in locomotor activity. This review highlights a novel molecular mechanism controlling circadian activity of birds by the interaction of melatonin with 7α-hydroxypregnenolone, a newly discovered neurosteroid stimulating locomotion.


Neurosteroids 7α-hydroxypregnenolone Cytochrome P450 Dopamine Locomotor activity Diurnal changes Quail 



This work was supported by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, Japan (18107002, 22132004 and 22227002 to K.T.).


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kazuyoshi Tsutsui
    • 1
    Email author
  • Shogo Haraguchi
    • 1
  • Kazuhiko Inoue
    • 1
  • Hitomi Miyabara
    • 2
  • Saori Suzuki
    • 2
  • Takayoshi Ubuka
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Integrative Brain Sciences, Department of BiologyWaseda University, Center for Medical Life Science of Waseda UniversityTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Laboratory of Brain Science, Faculty of Integrated Arts and SciencesHiroshima UniversityHigashi-HiroshimaJapan

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