Melatonin receptors in the brain and pituitary gland of hypothalamo-pituitary disconnected Soay rams

Lynda Williams, G A Lincoln, Julian Mercer, Perry Barrett, Peter John Morgan, Jennifer Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


In Soay rams in which the pituitary gland has been surgically separated from the hypothalamus, blood prolactin concentrations vary in response to changes in photoperiod and the administration of melatonin, as in intact animals, providing evidence that melatonin acts within the pituitary gland to control prolactin secretion. In this study the presence of potentially functional melatonin receptors in the pars tuberalis and zona tuberalis (PT/ZT) of hypothalamo-pituitary disconnected (HPD) Soay rams is confirmed using both in vitro autoradiography with the ligand 2-(I-125)- iodomelatonin and in situ hybridization for the melatonin receptor. There was no effect of the HPD operation on the pattern and quantity of 2-(I-125)iodomelatonin binding in the brain demonstrating that this binding is independent of hypothalamic regulation. The possibility that melatonin may control prolactin secretion directly via specific receptors on lactotrophs was investigated using dual in situ hybridization with a (S-35) labelled probe for the ovine melatonin receptor (Mel1a(b)) and a Digoxigenin labelled probe for ovine prolactin. Melatonin receptor gene expression was observed in the PT/ZT in both intact and HPD rams, however, there was no colocalization with pro[actin gene expression; only in the ZT was there a close association between cells expressing the melatonin receptor and lactotrophs. The results provide strong support for the view that melatonin acts via the PT/ZT to mediate the effects of photoperiod on the seasonal cycle in prolactin secretion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)639-643
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1997


  • melatonin receptor
  • sheep
  • hypothalamus
  • pituitary gland
  • prolactin
  • in situ hybridization
  • placing micro-implants
  • mediobasal hypothalamus
  • binding-sites
  • preoptic area
  • secretion
  • tuberalis
  • hormone
  • signal
  • ewe


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