Development and control of the circadian pacemaker for melatonin release in the chicken pineal gland

Valér Csernus, Meenakshi Ghosh, Béla Mess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Citations (Scopus)


Melatonin (MT) release from explanted pineal glands of 3- to 20-week- old chicken was investigated in a 5-day perifusion system. Both the chicken and the explanted glands were exposed to various environmental lighting regimens. Observations: (1) The explanted chicken pineal is sensitive to direct light. Continuous illumination during the in vitro period abolishes the circadian rhythm of the MT secretion in 3 days. Continuous darkness has limited effect. (2) Reverse illumination completely reverses the MT cycle in 2 days. (3) Rhythmic illumination with short (6-h) periods only slightly modulates the MT release pattern: the basic, 24-h periodicity is preserved. (4) The circadian MT pacemaker develops normally and becomes synchronized to the day even if the chicken has never experienced alteration in the environmental illumination (those hatched and bred under continuous illumination). The explanted pineal from these chickens exhibits normal MT cycle and light sensitivity. Conclusion, Chicken pineal contains a complete, genetically coded circadian pacemaker with a fixed frequency The pacemaker is synchronized to the day by the altered environmental illumination and by at least one other, unknown environmental factor. With altered illumination, in vitro, the 24-h periodicity of the pacemaker cannot be changed significantly, but its phase can be shifted. In contrast to conclusions obtained from in vivo observation in mammals, light seems to stimulate MT secretion from the avian pineal in vitro. For development and daily synchronization of the circadian MT pacemaker in the chicken pineal gland, periodic changes in the environmental illumination are not necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-28
Number of pages10
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1998


  • Chicken pineal gland
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Light
  • Melatonin
  • Perifusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology

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