Maternal transfer of photoperiodic information in Siberian hamsters. V. Effects of melatonin implants are dependent on photoperiod

T. H. Horton*, S. L. Ray, M. D. Rollag, S. M. Yellon, M. H. Stetson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Photoperiodic information is transferred from female Siberian hamsters to their fetuses during gestation. Although maternal melatonin is known to be essential for the transfer of prenatal photoperiodic information, its specific role is not well defined. The duration of the daily melatonin signal, expressed as an elevation of serum melatonin levels in the maternal circulation, has been hypothesized to convey day length information to the fetus. If this hypothesis is valid, it predicts that identical maternal melatonin signals should affect the fetuses identically, regardless of the prenatal photoperiod. To test this hypothesis, adult females received melatonin in beeswax or beeswax alone. They were paired with males and housed in photoperiods of 12L:12D or 16L:8D. On the day of parturition, mother and young were transferred to constant light (LL). Young males were killed on Day 28 of life, and weights of testes were determined. Prenatal treatment with beeswax alone did not affect the nature of the signal transferred from mother to fetus; young gestated in 12L:12D and reared in LL developed small testes, while those gestated in 16L:8D had large testes. On the other hand, the effect of the prenatal melatonin treatment on postnatal testicular development in LL was inversely dependent on the prenatal photoperiod: testicular growth was stimulated in young gestated in 12L:12D, but inhibited in young gestated in 16L:8D. To verify that the melatonin pellets produced equivalent serum melatonin levels in adult females in 12L:12D and 16L:8D, unmated adult females were killed 6-10 wk after receiving melatonin pellets. Serum levels were elevated in both groups throughout the day and night. These results demonstrate that factors in addition to maternal melatonin may contribute to the transmission of photoperiodic information to fetuses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-296
Number of pages6
JournalBiology of reproduction
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Cell Biology

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