Melatonin synthesis in the pineal gland of the Richardson's ground squirrel (Spermophilus richardsonii): influence of age and insulin-induced hypoglycemia

J Neural Transm. 1987;70(1-2):125-36. doi: 10.1007/BF01252514.


The nocturnal rises in pineal N-acetyltransferase (NAT) activity and melatonin levels were compared in young (25-35 days old) and adult (at least 1 year old) Richardson's ground squirrels. When expressed as NAT activity per pineal gland, the nighttime rise in the activity of this enzyme was less in young than in the adult animals; conversely, the melatonin content of the pineal glands of young animals was higher at one point (4 a.m., 8 hours after darkness onset) when compared to that in adult squirrels. When data were expressed relative to total protein, the NAT and melatonin rhythms in the pineals of young and adult animals were very similar. The effect of insulin-induced hypoglycemia on both daytime and nighttime NAT and melatonin levels in the pineal gland of the Richardson's ground squirrel was also assessed. Low daytime levels of these constituents were not influenced by the administration of 10 units insulin, a treatment which caused a marked drop in circulating glucose levels. At night, when pineal NAT and melatonin levels were high insulin injection had a very modest stimulatory effect on NAT activity (one point was elevated above saline injected controls) while melatonin levels remained unchanged by the treatment. These findings in the ground squirrel in reference to insulin-induced hypoglycemia, and stressors in general, appear to differ from those in the rat where stress can have a substantial influence or both low daytime and high nighttime levels of pineal NAT and melatonin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Female
  • Hypoglycemia / chemically induced
  • Hypoglycemia / metabolism*
  • Insulin / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Melatonin / biosynthesis*
  • Pineal Gland / enzymology
  • Pineal Gland / metabolism*
  • Sciuridae / metabolism*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase
  • Melatonin