Influence of Serotonin and Melatonin on Some Parameters of Gastrointestinal Activity


Address reprint requests to George A. Bubenik, Department of Zoology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario NIG 2W1, Canada.


In vitro melatonin (M) reduced the tone of gut muscles and counteracted the tonic effect of serotonin (5-HT). In vivo 0.1 to 4 mg of 5-HT (contained in beeswax implants) decreased the food transit time (FTT) in a dose-dependent manner, but higher doses (5 and 6 mg) increased the FTT. Melatonin injected intraperitoneally into mice bearing 5-HT implants (2 mg per animal) blocked partly the serotonin effect and increased FTT by 50%; however, no dose-dependent effect was observed when doses between 0.01 and 1 mg were used. Surprisingly, M injected into intact mice decreased FTT to levels comparable to those observed in 5-HT implanted, M-treated mice. Again, this significant decrease was not dose-dependent between 0.02 and 1 mg. Although in vitro the maximal inhibition of serotonin-induced spasm was achieved when the M: 5-HT ratio was 50–100: 1, in vivo the effective ratio was about 1: 1. This may indicate that part of M action on the gut movement is mediated by extraintestinal mechanisms. A hypothetical, counterbalancing system of M and 5-HT regulation of gut activity (similar to adrenaline-acetylcholine system) is proposed.