The timed infusion paradigm for melatonin delivery: what has it taught us about the melatonin signal, its reception, and the photoperiodic control of seasonal responses?

J Pineal Res. 1993 Nov;15(4):161-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-079x.1993.tb00903.x.


This review summarizes the evidence showing that the duration of the nocturnal secretory profile of pineal melatonin (MEL) is critical for eliciting seasonally appropriate reproductive physiological and behavioral responses in mammals. We review experiments using the timed infusion paradigm (TIP) to deliver MEL either systemically or centrally to pinealectomized hamsters and sheep. In this paradigm, MEL is infused, usually once daily, for a specific number of hours and at a predetermined time of day. This experimental strategy tests most directly those features of the MEL signal that are necessary to trigger photoperiodic responses. The data suggest that the duration of the MEL stimulation is the critical feature of the MEL signal for both inhibitory and stimulatory effects of the hormone on the photoperiodic control of reproductive development in juvenile Siberian hamsters, and for the photoperiodic control of reproductive and metabolic responses in adult Siberian and Syrian hamsters and sheep. The use of the TIP reveals the importance of the frequency of the signal presentation of MEL and suggests the importance of a period of low-to-absent circulating concentrations of the hormone. The TIP also reveals that the characteristics of the MEL signal that regulate male sexual behavior are similar to those that are critical for reproductive and metabolic responses in Syrian hamsters. We summarize the locations of possible functional MEL target sites identified by combining the TIP with traditional brain lesion techniques. Evidence from such studies suggests that the integrity of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) region in Siberian hamsters and the anterior hypothalamus in Syrian hamsters is necessary for the response to short-day MEL signals. The TIP has been used to deliver MEL to putative target sites for the hormone in the brain of juvenile and adult Siberian hamsters. The results of these preliminary experiments suggest that the regions of specific MEL binding in this species, especially the SCN, are effective sites where MEL may stimulate short-day-type responses. In contrast, results from intracranial application of MEL in sheep suggest the medial basal hypothalamus as a critical site of action. Finally, we also discuss potential applications of the TIP for identification of brain MEL target sites, understanding of other photoperiodic phenomena and responses, and resolution of the cellular/molecular basis underlying the reception and interpretation of MEL signals.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Cricetinae
  • Female
  • Injections
  • Male
  • Melatonin / administration & dosage
  • Melatonin / physiology*
  • Mesocricetus
  • Phodopus
  • Photoperiod*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / physiology*
  • Receptors, Melatonin
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Seasons*
  • Sheep
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Time Factors


  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Melatonin
  • Melatonin