Journal of neuroendocrinology

The Effects of Melatonin on Brain Arginine Vasotocin: Relationship with Sex and Seasonal Differences in Melatonin Receptor Type 1 in Green Treefrogs (Hyla cinerea).

PMID 25967351


The neuroendocrine mechanisms by which animals synchronise their physiological state with environmental cues are vital to timing life-history events appropriately. One important endocrine transducer of environmental cues in vertebrates is the pineal hormone melatonin, the secretion of which is directly sensitive to photoperiod and temperature. Melatonin modulates arginine vasotocin (AVT)-immunoreactive (-IR) cell number in the brain of green treefrogs (Hyla cinerea) during the summer breeding season, and this modulation is sexually dimorphic. In the present study, we investigated whether the influence of melatonin on vasotocin varies seasonally. We show that treatment of nonreproductive male green treefrogs with melatonin-filled silastic implants for 4 weeks during the winter does not alter vasotocin-IR cell number in any brain region (i.e. nucleus accumbens, amygdala, preoptic area, suprachiasmatic nucleus or ventral hypothalamus). Taken together, these results suggest that the influence of melatonin on AVT is associated with sex and seasonal variation in melatonin receptor expression. We tested this hypothesis by using immunohistochemistry to characterise the distribution of melatonin receptor type 1 (MT1, also known as Mel1a) in the brain of reproductive and nonreproductive male and female frogs. We quantified MT1-IR cell number in regions known to contain AVT cell populations. Reproductive males had significantly more MT1-IR cells than nonreproductive males in all brain regions, including the combined nucleus accumbens, diagonal band of Broca and septum, striatum, amygdala, combined preoptic area and suprachiasmatic nucleus, as well as the ventral hypothalamus. In the accumbens region, where the effect of melatonin on AVT is known to be sexually dimorphic, males had significantly more MT1-IR cells than females during the summer breeding season. Based on these findings, we suggest that MT1 plays a role in mediating the interactions between melatonin and vasotocin that regulate seasonal and sexually dimorphic changes in sociosexual behaviour.