Microtubules modulate melatonin receptors involved in phase-shifting circadian activity rhythms: in vitro and in vivo evidence


Address reprint requests to Paula A. Witt-Enderby, Division of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Duquesne University School of Pharmacy, 421 Mellon Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15282, USA
E-mail: wittp@duq.edu


Abstract:  MT1 melatonin receptors expressed in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells remain sensitive to a melatonin re-challenge even following chronic melatonin exposure when microtubules are depolymerized in the cell, an exposure that normally results in MT1 receptor desensitization. We extended our findings to MT2 melatonin receptors using both in vitro and in vivo approaches. Using CHO cells expressing human MT2 melatonin receptors, microtubule depolymerization prevents the loss in the number of high potency states of the receptor when compared to melatonin-treated cells. In addition, microtubule depolymerization increases melatonin-induced PKC activity but not PI hydrolysis via Gi proteins similar to that shown for MT1Rs. Furthermore, microtubule depolymerization in MT2-CHO cells enhances the exchange of GTP on Gi-proteins using a photoaffinity analog of GTP. To test whether microtubules are capable of modulating melatonin-induced phase-shifts, microtubules are depolymerized specifically within the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus (SCN) of the Long Evans rat and the efficacy of melatonin to phase shift their circadian activity rhythms was assessed and compared to animals with intact SCN microtubules. We find that microtubule depolymerization in the SCN using either Colcemid or nocodazole enhances the efficacy of 10 pm melatonin to phase-shift the activity rhythms of the Long Evans rat. No enhancement occurs in the presence of β-lumicolchicine, the inactive analog of Colcemid. Taken together, these data suggest that microtubule dynamics can modulate melatonin-induced phase shifts of circadian activity rhythms which may explain, in part, why circadian disturbances occur in individuals afflicted with diseases associated with microtubule disturbances.