Effects of water salinity on melatonin levels in plasma and peripheral tissues and on melatonin binding sites in European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax)

Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2009 Apr;152(4):486-90. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2008.12.003. Epub 2008 Dec 10.


Sea bass is an euryhaline fish that lives in a wide range of salinities and migrates seasonally from lagoons to the open sea. However, to date, the influence of water salinity on sea bass melatonin levels has not been reported. Here, we evaluated the differences in plasma and tissue melatonin contents and melatonin binding sites in sea bass under four different salinity levels: seawater (36 per thousand), isotonic water (15 per thousand), brackish water (4 per thousand) and freshwater (0 per thousand). The melatonin content was evaluated in plasma, whole brain, gills, intestine and kidney, while melatonin binding sites were analyzed in different brain regions and in the neural retina. Plasma melatonin levels at mid-dark varied, the lowest value occurring in seawater (102 pg/mL), and the highest in freshwater (151 pg/mL). In gills and intestine, however, the highest melatonin values were found in the seawater group (209 and 627 pg/g tissue, respectively). Melatonin binding sites in the brain also varied with salinity, with the highest density observed at the lower salinities in the optic tectum, cerebellum and hypothalamus (30.3, 13.0, and 8.0 fmol/mg protein, respectively). Melatonin binding sites in the retina showed a similar pattern, with the highest values being observed in freshwater. Taken together, these results reveal that salinity influences melatonin production and modifies the density of binding sites, which suggests that this hormone could play a role in timing seasonal events in sea bass, including those linked to fish migration between waters of different salinities for reproduction and spawning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bass / metabolism*
  • Binding Sites
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Gills / chemistry
  • Gills / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestines / chemistry
  • Kidney / chemistry
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Melatonin / analysis
  • Melatonin / blood*
  • Melatonin / metabolism*
  • Salinity*
  • Water* / chemistry


  • Water
  • Melatonin