• Eye;
  • golden hamster;
  • intraocular fluid;
  • intraocular pressure;
  • lens weight;
  • melatonin;
  • pinealectomy

Melatonin's effects were studied in male golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) distributed among five surgical groups (nonoperated, sham-pinealectomized, sham-pinealectomized plus black plastic shielding of the pineal region, pinealectomized, and pinealectomized plus black plastic shielding of the pineal region) and three injection groups (vehicle only, 25 μg melatonin, and 2,500 μg melatonin). Injections (s.c.) were daily for 28 d at L11 to L11.75 in a (light:dark) L:D 14:10 artificial photoperiod. Animals (N = 112) were killed and dissected on the day after the last injection (at 55–65 d of age). None of rhe surgical procedures affected weights of eyes or their parts, nor did they influence the effects of administered melatonin on the eyes. Melatonin caused an increase in absolute and relative eye weight and an increase in fluid content of intraocular space. The magnitudes of these effects were positively related to melatonin dose. These same eyes had a progressively lower weight of nonlenticular tissues with low to high doses of melatonin, probably in relation to greater fluid content, and suspected increase in intraocular pressure. Lens wet and dry weights were significantly greater in animals receiving melatonin, but only at the high dose. These actions of melatonin are likely to be direct and are shown to not require the presence of the pineal. Experiments of other designs are suggested in order to determine whether the effects of the low, near physiological, dose of melatonin represent physiological actions of endogenous melatonin, synthesized and released within the eye. However, effects of large doses of melatonin on the eye are still noteworthy in relation to interpretation of experiments employing such dosages, and of disease states involving changes in intraocular pressure.