Regional Distribution of Iodomelatonin Binding-Sites Within the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus of the Syrian-Hamster and the Siberian Hamster

E S MAYWOOD, E L BITTMAN, F J P EBLING, Perry Barrett, Peter John Morgan, M H HASTINGS

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The pineal hormone melatonin is a potent regulator of seasonal and circadian rhythms in vertebrates. In order to characterize potential target tissues of melatonin, the distribution of iodomelatonin (IMEL)-binding sites was examined within neurochemically and anatomically defined subdivisions of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), a structure necessary for seasonal and circadian rhythms in mammals. Studies were carried out in both the adult Syrian (Mesocricetus auratus) and Siberian (Phodopus sungorus) hamster. The retinoreceptive zone of the SCN was identified anatomically by immunocytochemical (ICC) visualization of cholera toxin B subunit tracer (ChTB-ir) following its intra-ocular injection. Photically-responsive SCN cells were identified by immunostaining for the protein product of the immediate-early gene c-fos (Fos-ir) following exposure of the animal to light. The non-photoresponsive zone of the SCN was identified using in situ hybridization (ISH) for arginine vasopressin (AVP) mRNA, whilst sites of IMEL-binding in the SCN were identified by in vitro film autoradiography using the specific ligand 2-[I-125]-iodomelatonin. To compare directly the distribution of IMEL-binding sites and one of the functional zones of the nucleus, alternate serial coronal sections through the SCN were processed for autoradiography for IMEL and one of the following: ICC for ChTB-ir or Fos-ir, or ISH for AVP mRNA. Overall, the regional distribution of the Various markers within the SCN was comparable in the two species. The retinorecipient (ChTB-ir) and photically-responsive (Fos-ir) zones of the SCN mapped together to the middle and caudal thirds of the nucleus, predominantly in its ventro-lateral division. IMEL-binding was present throughout the full rostro-caudal extent of the SCN, but by far the most extensive area of IMEL-binding was in the rostral half of the nucleus, leading to a clear dissociation along the rostro-caudal axis of the principal zone of IMEL-binding and the retinorecipient zone of the nucleus. In the Syrian hamster, in coronal sections of the caudal SCN which did contain significant amounts of both IMEL-binding and Fos-ir, IMEL-binding was confined to the medial zone, distinct from the Fos-ir region of the ventro-lateral SCN. The segregation was less clear-cut in the Siberian hamster where the area of IMEL-binding was more extensive. The dissociation of IMEL-binding and photically-responsive cells in the Syrian hamster was confirmed in a series of sagittal sections which were processed alternately for Fos-ir and IMEL-binding. Whereas fos-ir was confined to the ventro-lateral SCN, IMEL-binding was concentrated in the medial zone of the nucleus. In both species, mRNA for AVP was found throughout the rostro-caudal extent of the SCN, but the peak area was located in the rostral half, and so was segregated from the principal retinorecipient zone. The distribution of mRNA for AVP along the rostro-caudal and medio-lateral axes was in direct register with the IMEL-binding in both species. These studies suggest that melatonin acts upon pathways within the SCN different to those addressed by light, and that it may influence directly the efferent activity of the nucleus, possibly via an effect on vasopressinergic cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-223
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1995


  • C-FOS
  • AVP
  • retinohypothalamic tract
  • circadian rhythm
  • melatonin
  • entrainment
  • melatonin binding
  • circadian-rhythms
  • golden-hamster
  • mediobasal hypothalamus
  • gene-expression
  • rat
  • responses
  • injections
  • receptors
  • lesions


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