Cellular and Molecular Biology

Circadian and seasonal changes of synaptic bodies in different parts of the rabbit pineal gland

F. Martínez-Soriano1, T. Hernández-Gil de Tejada1, M. Lopez Bigorra1, S. Ballester Carmona1 and L. Vollrath2

1Department of Morphological Sciences, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain and
2Anatomisches Institut, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz, Germany

Offprint requests to: Prof. F. Martínez Soriano, Departamento de Ciencias Morfológicas, Facultad de Medicina, Avda. Blasco Ibáñez nº 17, 46010 Valencia, Spain. Fax: 963864159. e-mail: Francisco.Martinez-Soriano@uv.es


Summary. In the mammalian pineal gland, synaptic bodies (SBs) are poorly understood organelles. Previous studies in rabbits have shown that the organelles are rather heterogeneous in shape, are few in number during the day and increase in number at night. No studies are currently available on seasonal changes in this species and it is unknown whether the biological rhythms are identical in the proximal, intermediate and distal parts of the elongated pineal. To this end, a study was made of 84 rabbits kept under natural lighting conditions to examine numerical variations of the different types of SBs in the proximal, intermediate and distal regions of pineal glands procured at different timepoints of a 24-hour cycle and in each of the four annual seasons. In the present study, rod-like, sphere-like, ovoid, rectangular and triangular SB profiles were distinguished; the first two types being the most abundant. In addition to the well-known circadian changes, with low numbers of SB profiles during the day and high numbers at night, we found pronounced season-related differences as well as differences related to pineal regions. In autumn and winter, nighttime SR profile numbers were significantly higher than in spring and summer. With respect to regional differences it was found that the amplitude of the circadian rhythm increased in a proximo-distal direction in the gland. In autumn the strongly enhanced nocturnal increase was restricted to the distal region of the gland, whereas in winter it was seen in both the distal and the intermediate regions. The regional differences are probably related to the fact that the postganglionic sympathetic fibres, which regulate pineal function, enter the gland distally and proceed rostrally to the proximal region. Taken together, the results show that day- and nightlength are structurally coded in the pineal gland by means of SB numbers. Provided the SBs of the mammalian pineal gland are involved in synaptic processes, the results suggest that synaptic processes are enhanced at night as well as in autumn and winter. Histol. Histopathol. 14, 1079-1091 (1999)

Key words: Pineal gland, Synaptic bodies, Circadian rhythm, Seasonal rhythm, Rabbits

DOI: 10.14670/HH-14.1079