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Brain Behav Evol. 2012;80(3):222-32. doi: 10.1159/000341238. Epub 2012 Aug 17.

Sexually dimorphic effects of melatonin on brain arginine vasotocin immunoreactivity in green treefrogs (Hyla cinerea).

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Neuroscience Institute, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, USA.


Arginine vasotocin (AVT) and its mammalian homologue, arginine vasopressin (AVP), regulate a variety of social and reproductive behaviors, often with complex species-, sex- and context-dependent effects. Despite extensive evidence documenting seasonal variation in brain AVT/AVP, relatively few studies have investigated the environmental and/or hormonal factors mediating these seasonal changes. In the present study, we investigated whether the pineal hormone melatonin alters brain AVT immunoreactivity in green treefrogs (Hyla cinerea). Reproductively active male and female frogs were collected during the summer breeding season and a melatonin-filled or blank silastic capsule was surgically implanted subcutaneously. The duration of hormone treatment was 4 weeks, at which time frogs were eutha-nized and the brains and blood collected and processed for AVT immunohistochemistry and steroid hormone assay. We quantified AVT-immunoreactive (AVT-ir) cell bodies in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), caudal striatum and amygda- la (AMG), anterior preoptic area, suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) and infundibular region of the ventral hypothalamus. Sex differences in AVT-ir cell number were observed in all brain regions except in the anterior preoptic area and ventral hypothalamus, with males having more AVT-ir cells than females in the NAcc, amygdala and SCN. Brain AVT was sensitive to melatonin signaling during the breeding season, and the effects of melatonin varied significantly with both region and sex. Treatment with melatonin decreased AVT immunoreactivity in both the NAcc and SCN in male H. cinerea. In contrast, brain AVT was relatively insensitive to melatonin signaling in females, indicating that the regulation of the AVT/AVP neuropeptide system by melatonin may be sexually dimorphic. Finally, melatonin did not significantly influence testosterone or estradiol concentrations of male or female frogs, respectively, suggesting that the effects of melatonin on AVT immunoreactivity are independent of changes in gonadal sex steroid hormones. Collectively, our results indicate that the AVT/AVP neuronal system may be an important target for melatonin in facilitating seasonal changes in reproductive physiology and social behavior.

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