Inverse seasonal relationship between melatonin and ovarian activity in humans in a region with a strong seasonal contrast in luminosity

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1987 Nov;65(5):823-8. doi: 10.1210/jcem-65-5-823.


The effects of season on the activity of the pituitary-ovarian axis and the pineal gland were studied in 11 women by serum and urinary melatonin determinations and in 21 women by measurements of the serum concentrations of anterior pituitary and ovarian hormones during the dark and light seasons. A melatonin index was determined by integration of the area below the curve of serum melatonin concentrations during 24-h periods in both seasons. During the dark season, the daytime 12-h melatonin index and daytime urinary melatonin excretion were significantly higher than during the light season. In addition, the duration of the nocturnal melatonin pulse (serum melatonin levels, greater than 65 pmol/L) was lengthened during this season, whereas the mean serum estradiol concentration was significantly decreased at the time of ovulation and during the luteal phase of the cycle, indicating lowered ovarian activity. Luteal phase gonadotropin concentrations were increased during the dark season, which was also characterized by increased sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) and decreased free testosterone concentrations and free androgen indices (ratio of testosterone to SHBG X 700) throughout the menstrual cycle. The dark season was thus characterized by increased melatonin secretion and decreased ovarian and androgenic activities. In summary, we characterized two season-dependent hormonal phenomena. Although we did not prove any cause and effect association between melatonin and anterior pituitary-ovarian hormones, the inverse seasonal relationship in pineal gland and ovarian secretion suggests that melatonin is causally related to reproduction in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Melatonin / blood
  • Melatonin / metabolism*
  • Melatonin / urine
  • Ovary / metabolism
  • Ovary / physiology*
  • Pituitary Hormones, Anterior / blood
  • Seasons*
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / blood
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Pituitary Hormones, Anterior
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • Testosterone
  • Melatonin