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Endocrinology. 1985 Jan;116(1):424-30.

Testicular function and pelage color have different critical daylengths in the Djungarian hamster, Phodopus sungorus sungorus.


Testicular function and pelage color are regulated by photoperiod in the Djungarian hamster. To investigate the critical daylengths of these functions, adult male hamsters were exposed to one of four photoperiods: 16 h of light, 8 h of darkness (16L:8D), 14L:10D, 12L:12D, or 10L:14D. 10L:14D and 12L:12D induced the winter molt and testicular regression, in contrast to 14L:10D which induced only the latter response, and 16L:8D which maintained the summer pelage and large testes. Melatonin injections administered 4, 2, or 0 h before lights-off to hamsters exposed to 16L:8D mimicked the effects in hamsters exposed to 10:14D, 12L:12D or 14L:10D, respectively, on pelage color and testicular weight. Based on previous observations, the elevated circulating melatonin levels resulting from these injections were expected to extend the endogenous melatonin peak. Thus, this finding suggests that the duration of circadian melatonin elevation is the critical parameter determining its effect not only on the gonads, but also on the pelage. Since 14L:10D induced testicular regression but not the winter molt, this study also investigated whether circulating FSH levels, known to affect testicular function, and PRL levels, which have been shown to affect pelage color, might be affected differently by 14L:10D. Both FSH and PRL levels were found to be suppressed in 14L:10D hamsters compared to those in 16L:8D hamsters, although the interval between the initial decrease and eventual recovery was less than that in 10L:14D hamsters. Thus, the differential responses of the pelage and gonads to 14L:10D do not appear to be based on selective suppression of FSH in this photoperiod. However, different responses to 14L:10D compared to 10L:14D may be related to the shorter period of suppression of both PRL and FSH by the 14L:10D daylengths.

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