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Life Sci. 1997;60(18):1575-82.

Denervation of pigment cells lead to a receptor that is ultrasensitive to melatonin and noradrenaline.

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  • 1Dept. of Pharmacology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Link√∂ping, Sweden.


Pigment granule aggregation and dispersal can be studied in the melanophores of isolated scales from the cuckoo wrasse (Labrus ossifagus L.). Stimulation of a melanophore alpha2-adrenoceptor or the sympathetic nerve innervating the cell causes pigment aggregation. When the stimulation ceases, the pigment granules disperse throughout the cell. Studying this migration has been a useful tool in pharmacological research, particularly in investigations of the alpha2-adrenoceptor. Denervation of melanophores creates a receptor that is ultrasensitive to noradrenaline and melatonin. After three to four weeks of isolation, the denervated melanophores exhibit a 10(9)-fold increase in sensitivity. The efficacy of melatonin is increased from a negligible pigment-aggregation ability to the level of a full agonist. The melatonin-induced aggregation can, however, be counteracted by the alpha2-adrenoceptor antagonist yohimbine, but not by alpha1-adrenoceptor antagonist prazosin, indicating that the ultrasensitive receptor possesses alpha2-adrenoceptor features. Consequently, we conclude that the ultrasensitive receptor may represent an alpha2-adrenoceptor that has, due to denervation of the melanophore, become sensitive to melatonin.

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