Melatonin attenuates phenotypic flexibility of energy metabolism in a photoresponsive mammal, the Siberian hamster.
The aim of this study was to describe the regular annual pattern of the daily melatonin synthesis in Djungarian hamsters,Phodopus sungorus sungorus. The hamsters were maintained from birth in natural photoperiodic conditions and in bimonthly intervals the day/night rhythms of pineal N-acetyltransferase (NAT) were measured. Analysis of the circadian profiles of NAT activity showed that the duration of elevated melatonin synthesis closely reflects the duration of the scotophase throughout the seasons. Thus the duration of elevated melatonin seems to represent a direct humoral signal transmitting the photoperiodic message. The duration of the nightly melatonin pulse appears to be influenced mainly by the time of dawn rather than by the time of dusk. Additional information about the time of year might be encoded in the total amount of melatonin synthesized per day, whereas the amplitude of the nightly melatonin peak seems to be of minor importance.