The role of the pineal gland is to translate the rhythmic cycles of night and day encoded by the retina into hormonal signals that are transmitted to the rest of the neuronal system in the form of serotonin and melatonin synthesis and release. Here we describe that the production of both melatonin and serotonin by the pineal gland is regulated by a circadian-related heteromerization of adrenergic and dopamine D4 receptors. Through α1B-D4 and β1-D4 receptor heteromers dopamine inhibits adrenergic receptor signaling and blocks the synthesis of melatonin induced by adrenergic receptor ligands. This inhibition was not observed at hours of the day when D4 was not expressed. These data provide a new perspective on dopamine function and constitute the first example of a circadian-controlled receptor heteromer. The unanticipated heteromerization between adrenergic and dopamine D4 receptors provides a feedback mechanism for the neuronal hormone system in the form of dopamine to control circadian inputs.
González, S., Moreno-Delgado, D., Moreno, E., Pérez-Capote, K., Franco, R., Mallol, J., … McCormick, P. J. (2012). Circadian-related heteromerization of adrenergic and dopamine d4 receptors modulates melatonin synthesis and release in the pineal gland. PLoS Biology, 10(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001347