Twenty-four-hour patterns of pineal melatonin and pituitary and plasma prolactin in male rats under 'natural' and artificial lighting conditions

Neuroendocrinology. 1988 Sep;48(3):308-13. doi: 10.1159/000125027.


Natural lighting differs from usual artificial lighting mainly as follows: it has larger spectral composition, fluctuations of intensity during the day, higher intensity levels during the night (moonlight, starlight), and gradual changes of illuminance at dawn and dusk. The present experiment was performed in order to study whether these features of lighting affect the 24-hour patterns of melatonin and prolactin in male rats. The rats were kept 7 days in 'natural' lighting (sunlight through windows) or in artificial lighting (cool white fluorescent lamps) of similar periodicities (13/11 h light/dark). The samples were collected at 3-hour intervals during a 24-hour period. Pineal melatonin contents, pituitary prolactin contents, and plasma prolactin concentrations were measured radioimmunologically. The nocturnal pineal melatonin contents were higher and the daytime contents lower in natural than in artificial lighting conditions. A corresponding 'strengthening of rhythm' of prolactin was found in natural lighting. A reason for the higher amplitude variation of melatonin in the natural lighting conditions may be the gradual changes of illuminance at dawn and dusk. The different pituitary and plasma prolactin patterns of the rats kept in the two lighting conditions might partly be explained by a stimulatory effect of melatonin on the production and secretion of prolactin, but other regulatory factors had to be involved, too.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm / radiation effects*
  • Light*
  • Male
  • Melatonin / metabolism*
  • Pineal Gland / metabolism*
  • Pineal Gland / radiation effects
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism*
  • Pituitary Gland / radiation effects
  • Prolactin / blood
  • Prolactin / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains


  • Prolactin
  • Melatonin