Role of the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus in neuroendocrine responses to daylength in the golden hamster

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Daylength regulates reproduction in golden hamsters through a mechanism which involves the pineal indoleamine, melatonin. Retinal input to the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus (SCN) and sympathetic innervation of the pineal are critical to the inhibition of reproduction by short photoperiods. Since the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) receives extensive input from the SCN in the rat, and may influence autonomic function via its brainstem and spinal cord projections, we studied the role of this nucleus in photoperiodically induced gonadal regression in the hamster. Bilateral electrolytic destruction of either the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) or suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus completely blocked testicular regression induced by either blinding or exposure to short days (10L:14D). Lesions in the retrochiasmatic hypothalamus (RCA) which may have interrupted the pathway of previously identified efferents from the SCN to the PVN were also effective in preventing short day-induced gonadal regression. Pineal melatonin content was measured in intact and lesioned hamsters sacrificed 3-5 h before lights on, at the time of the expected nocturnal peak. While SCN and RCA lesions significantly reduced pineal melatonin content, PVN lesions were still more effective in this regard. We conclude that the hamster's neuroendocrine response to photoperiod is mediated by neural pathways which include retinohypothalamic input to the SCN and efferents from this nucleus to the PVN which travel dorsocaudally through the retrochiasmatic area of the hypothalamus. Effectiveness of lesions restricted to the PVN suggests that direct projections from the PVN to spinal autonomic centers convey photoperiodic information which regulates pineal, and hence gonadal, function. © 1984.




Lehman, M. N., Bittman, E. L., & Newman, S. W. (1984). Role of the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus in neuroendocrine responses to daylength in the golden hamster. Brain Research, 308(1), 25–32.

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