The effects of near-ultraviolet (UV-A) irradiation on nocturnal activity of serotonin N-acetyltransferase (NAT; a key regulatory enzyme in melatonin biosynthesis) in the pineal gland of the rat and chick were investigated. Exposure of the animals to UV-A during the 4th or 5th hour of the dark phase of the 12:12 h light-dark (LD) cycle suppressed the night-driven NAT activity in a time-dependent manner, the effects being generally more pronounced in rats than in chicks. The UV-A-evoked suppression of the nocturnal NAT activity was completely restored within 2 h (chicks) or 3 h (rats) in animals which, after irradiation, were returned to darkness. When a short UV-A pulse was applied to the animals after midnight, it induced a decrease in the enzyme activity in both species; yet, the effect was readily reversible only in chicks. The results presented here, as well as other data, demonstrate that UV-A light is a powerful signal affecting the pineal melatonin-generating system both in mammals and avians, and that the involved mechanisms may differ in the tested species.