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Horm Behav. 2004 Dec;46(5):582-91.

Adrenal hormones mediate melatonin-induced increases in aggression in male Siberian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus).

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Department of Biology, Program in Neural Science, and Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


Among the suite of seasonal adaptations displayed by nontropical rodents, some species demonstrate increased territorial aggression in short compared with long day lengths despite basal levels of testosterone. The precise physiological mechanisms mediating seasonal changes in aggression, however, remain largely unknown. The goal of the present study was to examine the role of melatonin, as well as adrenal hormones, in the regulation of seasonal aggression in male Siberian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus). In Experiment 1, male Siberian hamsters received either daily (s.c.) injections of melatonin (15 microg/day) or saline 2 h before lights out for 10 consecutive days. In Experiment 2, hamsters received adrenal demedullations (ADMEDx), whereas in Experiment 3 animals received adrenalectomies (ADx); control animals in both experiments received sham surgeries. Animals in both experiments subsequently received daily injections of melatonin or vehicle as in Experiment 1. Animals in all experiments were tested using a resident-intruder model of aggression. In Experiment 1, exogenous melatonin treatment increased aggression compared with control hamsters. In Experiment 2, ADMEDx had no effect on melatonin-induced aggression. In Experiment 3, the melatonin-induced increase in aggression was significantly attenuated by ADx. Collectively, the results of the present study demonstrate that short day-like patterns of melatonin increase aggression in male Siberian hamsters and suggest that increased aggression is due, in part, to changes in adrenocortical steroids.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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