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Nat Sci Sleep. 2018 Jul 17;10:203-215. doi: 10.2147/NSS.S158602. eCollection 2018.

Chronic treatment with dexamethasone alters clock gene expression and melatonin synthesis in rat pineal gland at night.

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Department of Morphology, Center of Biological Sciences and Health, Federal University of Sergipe, São Cristóvão, Brazil,
Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.
Morphophysiology & Pathology Sector, Department of Biological Sciences, Federal University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.
Laboratory of Pharmacology, Butanta Institute, São Paulo, Brazil.



Melatonin is a neuroendocrine hormone that regulates many functions involving energy metabolism and behavior in mammals throughout the light/dark cycle. It is considered an output signal of the central circadian clock, located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. Melatonin synthesis can be influenced by other hormones, such as insulin and glucocorticoids in pathological conditions or during stress. Furthermore, glucocorticoids appear to modulate circadian clock genes in peripheral tissues and are associated with the onset of metabolic diseases. In the pineal gland, the modulation of melatonin synthesis by clock genes has already been demonstrated. However, few studies have shown the effects of glucocorticoids on clock genes expression in the pineal gland.


We verified that rats treated with dexamethasone (2 mg/kg body weight, intraperitoneal) for 10 consecutive days, showed hyperglycemia and pronounced hyperinsulinemia during the dark phase. Insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance, melatonin synthesis, and enzymatic activity of arylalkylamine N-acetyltransferase, the key enzyme of melatonin synthesis, were reduced. Furthermore, we observed an increase in the expression of Bmal1, Per1, Per2, Cry1, and Cry2 in pineal glands of rats treated with dexamethasone.


These results show that chronic treatment with dexamethasone can modulate both melatonin synthesis and circadian clock expression during the dark phase.


AANAT activity; clock genes; glucocorticoids; glycemia profile; nocturnal insulinemia; pineal gland

Conflict of interest statement

Disclosure The authors report no conflicts of interest in this work.

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