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Keywords:

  • antibodies;
  • day length;
  • immunoglobulin;
  • photoperiod;
  • pineal;
  • seasonal

Abstract: Many non-tropical rodent species rely on photoperiod as the primary cue to co-ordinate seasonally appropriate changes in physiology and behavior. Among these seasonal changes, several rodent species (e.g. deer mice, prairie voles, Siberian hamsters) adjust immune function in response to changes in ambient day lengths. The goals of the present study were to examine the effects of photoperiod on immune function of Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus), and to determine the role of melatonin in mediating photoperiodic changes in immunity. In Experiment 1, male Syrian hamsters were housed in long (LD 14:10) or short days (LD 10:14) for 10 wk. In Experiment 2, hamsters were housed in long days and half of the animals were given 10 consecutive days of i.p. melatonin injections (15 μg) in the early evening, while the remaining animals received injections of the vehicle alone. After the respective experimental manipulations, animals were injected with the antigen, keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH), blood samples were obtained and anti-KLH IgG antibody production was assessed. In Experiment 1, short-day hamsters underwent gonadal regression and reduced serum testosterone as well as displayed increased humoral immune function compared with long-day animals. In Experiment 2, short-term melatonin treatment did not affect gonadal mass, testosterone or humoral immune function. These results confirm previous findings of photoperiodic changes in immunity in rodents and suggest that changes in humoral immunity are not due to short-term changes in melatonin.