Role of the pineal gland in immunity. Circadian synthesis and release of melatonin modulates the antibody response and antagonizes the immunosuppressive effect of corticosterone

J Neuroimmunol. 1986 Nov;13(1):19-30. doi: 10.1016/0165-5728(86)90047-0.


Inhibition of synthesis of the pineal neurohormone melatonin (MEL) in mice, by administration of propranolol (PRO) in the evening, and daily injections of p-chlorophenylalanine (PCPA), resulted in a significant depression of the primary antibody response to sheep red blood cells (SRBC). Spleen cells from these mice showed a reduced reactivity against antigens in the autologous mixed lymphocyte reaction (AMLR). In contrast, alloreactivity remained normal. Reconstitution of the night-time peak of plasma MEL by evening injections to the mice completely reversed the suppression of the humoral response and the AMLR. MEL administration was able to antagonize the depression of antibody production induced by corticosterone in vivo. These results suggest that the pineal gland has important immunomodulatory functions through its cyclic, circadian release of MEL.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibody Formation*
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Corticosterone / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Female
  • Fenclonine / pharmacology
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects
  • Melatonin / pharmacology
  • Melatonin / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Pineal Gland / physiology*
  • Propranolol / pharmacology


  • Propranolol
  • Melatonin
  • Fenclonine
  • Corticosterone