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1993 Huether MDMA Pharmacology Study

Effects of indirectly acting 5-HT receptor agonists on circulating melatonin levels in rats,
by G. Huether; B. Poeggeler; L. Adler; E. Ruther
European Journal of Pharmacology Vol 238 (No 2-3) July 20 1993; 249-254

Because circulating melatonin levels are generally thought to be under the strict control of pineal N-acetyltransferase, little attention has been paid to the impact of an altered availability of serotonin (5-HT) on melatonin formation. In order to see whether melatonin synthesis is stimulated by an increased availability of free, cytosolic 5-HT, we studied the effects of 5-HT precursors, 5-HT releasers and reuptake inhibitors and of monoamine oxidase inhibitors, alone and in combination, on circulating melatonin levels in experimental animals. The administration of tryptophan and 5-HT-releasing drugs (fenfluramine, +/- 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) to rats caused a dose- and time-dependent elevation of circulating melatonin levels during the day and night. This increase in melatonin was further enhanced by inhibition of monoamine oxidase. The elevation of plasma melatonin caused by 5-HT-releasing drugs was prevented by prior administration of fluoxetine. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors and fluoxetine alone had no effect on circulating melatonin levels. These findings indicate that the administration of indirectly acting 5-HT receptor agonists which increase the free cytoplasmic pool of 5-HT may also elevate circulating melatonin levels. The results of this study suggest that the rate of pineal melatonin synthesis is dependent on the free cytoplasmic pool of 5-HT in pinealocytes and that the drug-induced elevation of this pool stimulates melatonin formation and increases circulating melatonin levels. At least some of the effects of indirectly acting 5-HT receptor agonists, e.g. on sleep, mood, food intake, pain perception, and neuroendocrine secretion, may therefore be mediated by the elevation of circulating melatonin and the subsequent activation of central melatonin receptors.