Structural changes in the pars intermedia of the cichlid teleost Sarotherodon mossambicus as a result of background and adaptation and illumination. III. The role of the pineal organ

Cell Tissue Res. 1981;220(3):561-71. doi: 10.1007/BF00216760.


The MSH producing cells in the pars intermedia of Sarotherodon mossambicus have been shown to be involved in background adaptation processes. Reflected light received by the eyes affects the activity of these cells. In the present study the hypothesis has been tested that also the pineal organ, as a second photoreceptor, is involved in regulation of the metabolic activity of the MSH cells. The pineal organ appears to contain photoreceptor cells and is considered to be capable of transferring information about light conditions to the animal. Removal of the pineal organ of fish kept on a black background has no effect on activity of MSH cells, whereas the activity of these cells in fish kept in darkness is increased. Thus it seems that the pineal organ exercises its influence on MSH cells only in darkness and that this influence results in a reduced activity of these cells. It is therefore concluded that the metabolic activity of MSH cells is inhibited not only by reflected light received by the eyes, but also by the action of the pineal organ as a result of the absence of illumination. No structural signs of secretory activity can be observed in the pineal, which might indicate synthesis or release of substances like melatonin. However, administration of melatonin reduces the activity of MSH cells. Neither pinealectomy nor treatment with melatonin has any influence on the second cell type of the pars intermedia, the PAS positive cells.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Darkness
  • Fishes / anatomy & histology*
  • Light
  • Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormones / physiology
  • Periodic Acid-Schiff Reaction
  • Pineal Gland / physiology*
  • Pineal Gland / ultrastructure
  • Pituitary Gland / physiology
  • Pituitary Gland / ultrastructure*


  • Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormones