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Keywords:

  • benzodiazepines;
  • GABA;
  • melatonin

Several studies suggest that GABAergic mechanisms may be involved in the modulation of melatonin secretion. However, conflicting results have been reported in animal studies; in humans the issue has not been widely investigated. In the present study, using a double-blind design, six healthy men received orally, at midnight, 10 mg of diazepam, a GABAergic agent, or placebo, on two different occasions 1 week apart. Blood samples were collected, in the dark, immediately before the drug administration, and at 12:30, 1, 2, 3, and 4 AM. Serum melatonin was measured by a radioimmunological method with [125I]melatonin as a tracer. Two-way ANOVA with repeated measurements disclosed a significant effect for treatment (P < 0.01), for time (P < 0.0004), and for treatment X time interaction (P < 0.05). Following diazepam administration, serum melatonin levels observed at 2, 3, and 4 AM were significantly lower than the corresponding values following placebo (P < 0.02 at 2 and 4 AM; P < 0.03 at 3 AM [Students' paired t test]). These results show that nocturnal blood melatonin levels may be suppressed by the acute administration of a GABAergic agent, suggesting that GABA may be involved in the modulation of pineal activity in man.