Effects of melatonin on peripheral reproductive function: regulation of testicular GnIH and testosterone

Endocrinology. 2011 Sep;152(9):3461-70. doi: 10.1210/en.2011-1053. Epub 2011 Jul 19.


Study of seasonal reproduction has focused on the brain. Here, we show that the inhibition of sex steroid secretion can be seasonally mediated at the level of the gonad. We investigate the direct effects of melatonin on sex steroid secretion and gonadal neuropeptide expression in European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). PCR reveals starling gonads express mRNA for gonadotropin inhibitory hormone (GnIH) and its receptor (GnIHR) and melatonin receptors 1B (Mel 1B) and 1C (Mel 1C). We demonstrate that the gonadal GnIH system is regulated seasonally, possibly via a mechanism involving melatonin. GnIH/ GnIHR expression in the testes is relatively low during breeding compared with outside the breeding season. The expression patterns of Mel 1B and Mel 1C are correlated with this expression, and melatonin up-regulates the expression of GnIH mRNA in starling gonads before breeding. In vitro, GnIH and melatonin significantly decrease testosterone secretion from LH/FSH-stimulated testes before, but not during, breeding. Thus local inhibition of sex steroid secretion appears to be regulated seasonally at the level of the gonad, by a mechanism involving melatonin and the gonadal GnIH system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avian Proteins / genetics
  • Avian Proteins / metabolism*
  • Hypothalamic Hormones / genetics
  • Hypothalamic Hormones / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Melatonin / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptors, Melatonin / metabolism*
  • Seasons
  • Starlings
  • Testis / metabolism*
  • Testosterone / metabolism


  • Avian Proteins
  • Hypothalamic Hormones
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Melatonin
  • gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone, Coturnix japonica
  • Testosterone
  • Melatonin