Puberty, which is markedly delayed in male Siberian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus) born into short day lengths, is controlled by an interval timer regulated by the duration of nocturnal melatonin secretion. Properties of the interval timer were assessed by perturbing normal patterns of melatonin secretion in males gestated and maintained thereafter in 1 of 2 short day lengths, 10 h light/day (10L) or 12L. Melatonin secretion of short-day hamsters was suppressed by constant light treatment or modified by daily injection of propranolol to mimic nocturnal melatonin durations typical of long-day hamsters. Constant light treatment during weeks 3 to 5 induced early incomplete gonadal growth in 12L but not 10L hamsters but did not affect late onset of gonadal development indicative of puberty in either photoperiod. Propranolol treatment during postnatal weeks 3 to 5 induced transient growth of the testes and ultimately delayed the timing of puberty by 3 weeks. Similar treatments between weeks 5 and 7 or on alternate weeks for 24 weeks did not affect the interval timer. The first 2 weeks after weaning may constitute a critical period during which the interval timer is highly responsive to photoperiod. Alternatively the hamsters' photoperiodic history rather than age or developmental stage may be the critical variable. The interpolation of long-day melatonin signals at the time of weaning does not appear to reset the interval timer to its zero position but may reduce timer responsiveness to long-day melatonin signals several weeks later.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physiology (medical)