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Am J Physiol. 1983 Sep;245(3):R334-8.

Photoperiodic regulation of body mass, food intake, and reproduction in meadow voles.


Adult male voles were maintained for 10 wk in long or short photoperiods (14 or 10 h of light/day). A third group of animals housed in the long photoperiod was implanted with capsules containing melatonin. Body weight and food intake were measured weekly; various tissues were weighed and analyzed at the time of autopsy. After 10 wk, voles in the short photoperiod weighed 20% less and consumed 30% less food than those housed in the long photoperiod. Total body water and lean body mass were reduced in the short-day animals, although the size of the brown adipose tissue was not affected. White adipose tissue lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity was markedly reduced in the short-day voles who also manifested gonadal regression and suppression of spermatogenesis. Melatonin mimicked the effects of short photoperiods on LPL activity and on lean body mass; other parameters for melatonin-treated animals were intermediate between those of untreated long- and short-day voles. We hypothesize that winter weight losses experienced by meadow voles in the field are mediated by decreases in the duration of the daily photophase and that the reduction in body mass permits overwintering voles to reduce their energy requirements and the amount of time devoted to foraging. At least part of the seasonal decline in body mass appears due to a decrease in gonadal hormone secretion.

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