Circadian rhythms of photorefractory Siberian hamsters remain responsive to melatonin

Matthew P. Butler, Matthew J. Paul, Kevin W. Turner, Jin Ho Park, Joseph R. Driscoll, Lance J. Kriegsfeld, Irving Zucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Short day lengths increase the duration of nocturnal melatonin (Mel) secretion, which induces the winter phenotype in Siberian hamsters. After several months of continued exposure to short days, hamsters spontaneously revert to the spring-summer phenotype. This transition has been attributed to the development of refractoriness of Mel-binding tissues, including the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), to long-duration Mel signals. The SCN of Siberian hamsters is required for the seasonal response to winter-like Mel signals, and becomes refractory to previously effective long-duration Mel signals restricted to this area. Acute Mel treatment phase shifts circadian locomotor rhythms of photosensitive Siberian hamsters, presumably by affecting circadian oscillators in the SCN. We tested whether seasonal refractoriness of the SCN to long-duration Mel signals also renders the circadian system of Siberian hamsters unresponsive to Mel. Males manifesting free-running circadian rhythms in constant dim red light were injected with Mel or vehicle for 5 days on a 23.5-h T-cycle beginning at circadian time 10. Mel injections caused significantly larger phase advances in activity onset than did the saline vehicle, but the magnitude of phase shifts to Mel did not differ between photorefractory and photosensitive hamsters. Similarly, when entrained to a 16-h light/8-h dark photocycle, photorefractory and photosensitive hamsters did not differ in their response to Mel injected 4 h before the onset of the dark phase. Activity onset in Mel-injected hamsters was masked by light but was revealed to be significantly earlier than in vehicle-injected hamsters upon transfer to constant dim red light. The acute effects of melatonin on circadian behavioral rhythms are preserved in photorefractory hamsters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-169
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of biological rhythms
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Circadian
  • Melatonin
  • Phase shift
  • Photoperiod
  • Refractoriness
  • SCN

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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