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Brain Res. 2001 Aug 10;910(1-2):1-11.

Influence of sleep deprivation coupled with administration of melatonin on the ultrastructure of rat pineal gland.

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Department of Anatomy, Chung-Shan Medical and Dental College, No. 110, Sec. 1, Chien Kuo North Road, Taichung, Taiwan.


The effects of sleep deprivation with or without melatonin treatment on the pineal morphology in rats were studied. Five days after sleep deprivation and using electron microscopy, many of the pinealocytes exhibited structural alterations including dilation of the cisternae of the rough/smooth endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi saccules and mitochondria, and an increase in the numbers of lipid droplets, vacuoles and dense-core vesicles. These features were considered as morphological evidence of increased synthesis or secretion by the pineal gland. In addition, numerous membranous profiles, considered to be degraded cellular organelles, were observed in some pinealocytes and sympathetic nerve terminals. It is suggested that the occurrence of degenerating organelles had resulted from the deleterious effect of sleep deprivation. This may be attributed to an overload of secretory activity of the pineal gland during stress elicited by the long-term sleep deprivation, leading to functional exhaustion and irreversible damage of the oxidation-related organelles. In sleep-deprived rats receiving a single injection of melatonin (10 mg/kg) for 5 consecutive days, the above features indicative of pinealocytic activation were attenuated. In fact, all signs of degeneration of cellular organelles were rarely found. These results suggest that the pineal gland is itself a target for exogenously administered melatonin. Thus, melatonin when administered systemically may be used as a potential neuroprotective drug against neuronal damage induced by sleep deprivation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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