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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Melatonin and farm animals: endogenous rhythms and exogenous applications.

Studies on farm animals have contributed significantly to our increased understanding of basic melatonin-related physiological mechanisms, as well as to the regulation of reproduction and pelage in individual domestic species. This review concentrates on recent work on the role of melatonin in the regulation of porcine reproduction, cervine endocrine, and behavioral cycles and wool and cashmere production which has added to this knowledge base. Early studies of the domestic pig indicated that melatonin secretion in this species differed markedly from that in other domestic and laboratory animals. There is now clear evidence that this is not the case and that the domestic pig uses a circadian rhythm of melatonin release for the transduction of photoperiodic information. Apparent inconsistencies among reports may be due, in part, to differences in the conditions under which the experiments were performed and to the assay systems employed to measure circulating melatonin, the concentrations of which are much lower than in other domestic species. Appropriately administered exogenous melatonin advances the onset of puberty in gilts, and may prove to be effective in overcoming seasonal infertility in female pigs. Appropriately timed melatonin and/or photoperiod treatments, administered to ruminants in utero, influence the reproductive physiology of the offspring, indicating that even in species which don't develop an endogenous melatonin rhythm till some weeks postnatally, awareness of photoenvironment, presumably via maternal melatonin, predates birth. Pre- or early postnatal melatonin-related treatments also influence the development/cycle frequency of pelage. Areas requiring further investigation include the hormonal/growth factors involved, reasons for the transient nature of the effects in sheep and goats, and the reason for similar effects on pelage of augmenting or inactivating melatonin. Aspects of endogenous melatonin rhythms in farm species which require further study include: the significance of the abolition of the nocturnal melatonin peak in the sheep by prolonged short day exposure; the increased pineal bloodflow in sheep bred to produce high wool yields; the presence of high daytime melatonin levels immediately prior to the rut in the fallow buck; and the low amplitude of the rhythm in the domestic pig.[1]


  1. Melatonin and farm animals: endogenous rhythms and exogenous applications. Paterson, A.M., Foldes, A. J. Pineal Res. (1994) [Pubmed]
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