Seasonal weight regulation of the raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides): interactions between melatonin, leptin, ghrelin, and growth hormone

J Biol Rhythms. 2002 Apr;17(2):155-63. doi: 10.1177/074873040201700206.


The raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides, Canidae, Carnivora) is a middle-sized omnivore with excessive autumnal fattening and winter sleep. We studied seasonal weight regulation of the species by following the plasma leptin, ghrelin, and growth hormone (GH) levels of farm-bred raccoon dogs (n = 32) for 6 months. In August, half of the raccoon dogs received continuous-release melatonin implants, and in November, half of the animals of both the sham-operated and melatonin-treated groups were fasted for 2 months. In the autumn, the plasma leptin and GH levels were low, but the ghrelin levels were relatively high and correlated positively with energy intake. This represents the period of energy storage. Leptin and GH levels peaked simultaneously in late October, and melatonin advanced the peaks by 1 week. Thereafter, the levels rapidly declined, representing the transition period from autumnal anabolism to wintertime catabolism. In the winter, the leptin and GH levels rose to high levels, but the ghrelin-leptin ratio was very low. This is the period of winter sleep, with fat accumulated in the autumn as the principal metabolic fuel. In the winter, leptin, ghrelin, and GH may work in synergy to increase lipolysis. GH may also induce winter sleep to the raccoon dog. Fasting had no effect on the hormone levels, unlike in humans and rodents. Instead of the amount of fat in the body, the main regulators of the levels of these hormones in the raccoon dog are presumably seasonal rhythms entrained by melatonin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiology
  • Animals
  • Basal Metabolism / drug effects
  • Basal Metabolism / physiology
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Carnivora / physiology*
  • Drug Implants
  • Eating / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Fasting / physiology
  • Female
  • Ghrelin
  • Growth Hormone / blood
  • Growth Hormone / physiology*
  • Hibernation / physiology
  • Leptin / blood
  • Leptin / physiology*
  • Male
  • Melatonin / administration & dosage
  • Melatonin / blood
  • Melatonin / pharmacology*
  • Peptide Hormones*
  • Peptides / blood
  • Peptides / physiology*
  • Photoperiod
  • Seasons


  • Drug Implants
  • Ghrelin
  • Leptin
  • Peptide Hormones
  • Peptides
  • Growth Hormone
  • Melatonin