Light and Hormones in Seasonal Regulation of Reproduction and Mood

Endocrinology. 2020 Sep 1;161(9):bqaa130. doi: 10.1210/endocr/bqaa130.


Organisms that inhabit the temperate zone exhibit various seasonal adaptive behaviors, including reproduction, hibernation, molting, and migration. Day length, known as photoperiod, is the most noise-free and widely used environmental cue that enables animals to anticipate the oncoming seasons and adapt their physiologies accordingly. Although less clear, some human traits also exhibit seasonality, such as birthrate, mood, cognitive brain responses, and various diseases. However, the molecular basis for human seasonality is poorly understood. Herein, we first review the underlying mechanisms of seasonal adaptive strategies of animals, including seasonal reproduction and stress responses during the breeding season. We then briefly summarize our recent discovery of signaling pathways involved in the winter depression-like phenotype in medaka fish. We believe that exploring the regulation of seasonal traits in animal models will provide insight into human seasonality and aid in the understanding of human diseases such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Keywords: photoperiod; seasonal adaptation; seasonal affective disorder (SAD); seasonal reproduction; stress response.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological* / physiology
  • Adaptation, Physiological* / radiation effects
  • Affect / physiology
  • Affect / radiation effects*
  • Animals
  • Hormones / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Photoperiod
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Reproduction / radiation effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder / epidemiology
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder / etiology
  • Seasons*


  • Hormones