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J Comp Neurol. 2010 Sep 1;518(17):3495-511. doi: 10.1002/cne.22408.

Melatonin receptors in the brain of the European sea bass: An in situ hybridization and autoradiographic study.

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Department of Biology, Faculty of Marine and Environmental Sciences, University of Cádiz, Campus Río San Pedro, E-11510 Puerto Real, Spain.


Melatonin is synthesized in the pineal organ and retina of vertebrates and exhibits a clear nocturnal rhythm of secretion. This hormone influences a number of important physiological processes acting through specific transmembrane G-protein-coupled receptors. Recently, we have cloned three different melatonin receptors in sea bass belonging to the MT1, MT2, and Mel1c subtypes. In this paper, we have analyzed the central expression of the MT1 gene by in situ hybridization and compared its distribution with the localization of 2-[(125)I]-iodomelatonin binding sites. In situ hybridization and autoradiographic studies provided consistent results. Melatonin receptors were mainly expressed in visually related areas of the sea bass brain, such as the pretectal area, glomerular complex, optic tectum, torus longitudinalis, and thalamus. A conspicuous expression was also detected in neuroendocrine regions including the ventral telencephalon, preoptic area, and hypothalamus. Furthermore, melatonin receptors were evident in the ganglionic cell layer of the cerebellum. The presence of iodomelatonin binding and/or MT1 mRNA-expressing cells was also observed in the hindbrain, in particular in the oculomotor and trigeminal nuclei and in the reticular formation. Our results suggest an important role of MT1 in the mediation of melatonin actions in visual/light integration, mechanoreception, somatosensation, eye-body motor coordination, and integrative and neuroendocrine functions. Remarkable differences in the number and distribution of brain nuclei expressing MT1 mRNAs in sea bass and trout, the only fish species analyzed to date, represent another piece of evidence for differences in the organization of the visual and circadian systems observed between salmoniform and perciform teleosts.

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