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L. Martinet, D. Allain and Y. Chabi


In mink, termination of the delayed implantation period, following reactivation of the corpora lutea, and onset of the spring moult are associated with a rise in prolactin secretion triggered by increasing daylength, while decreasing daylength induces the autumn moult. To establish whether suppression of the function of the pineal rendered the mink unresponsive to daylength changes, the superior cervical ganglion was removed bilaterally 2–4 weeks before mating. Intact and operated females were then left outdoors or were put under a lighting regime of either 15 h light: 9 h darkness (15L: 9D) or 8L: 16D. In July, at the end of the spring moult, the 15L: 9D lighting regime was changed to one of 8L: 16D. Under artificial photoperiods ganglionectomy suppressed the stimulatory role of long days and the inhibitory role of short days on prolactin secretion, and consequently on progesterone secretion and spring moult. Neither was the autumn moult, induced early in intact females by the change to a short photoperiod, advanced in ganglionectomized females, showing that the latter were unresponsive to the artificial modification of the photoperiod. However, in animals kept outdoors, prolactin and progesterone secretion and spring moult were not changed by ganglionectomy. Increase in body weight and autumn moult were only slightly delayed by the operation suggesting that other environmental factors had replaced the synchronizing effect of the daylength changes. Alternatively the desynchronization between intact females responsive to photoperiodism and those rendered unresponsive may be too slow to be observed soon after ganglionectomy.

J. Endocr. (1985) 107, 31–39

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L. Martinet, D. Allain and C. Weiner


Beginning at the summer solstice adult female mink were maintained in long- or short-day photoperiods and treated with bromocriptine or prolactin. In control females kept under natural lighting conditions the moult coincided with the seasonal decrease in prolactin and resulted in the growth of a dense winter coat which was completed by the end of November. Long days, which slowed the decrease in plasma prolactin relative to animals in the natural photoperiod, induced a more or less complete moult followed by growth of a thin summer coat. On the contrary we observed an accelerated decrease in plasma prolactin concentrations followed by an early and brief moult in females kept under long days but treated with bromocriptine and in females under short days. The growth of a dense winter coat was completed by the end of September in all the females of the short-day group and in six of eleven females treated with bromocriptine. In the other five females, moult was followed by the growth of a summer coat. These results may suggest that the decline of prolactin after the summer solstice is responsible for the onset of the autumn moult, but the early, abbreviated moult and the growth of a winter coat observed in females kept under short days and treated with prolactin do not seem to support this hypothesis. However, the huge non-physiological levels of prolactin measured in the plasma of these females and the appearance of abnormal white under-hairs might suggest that the hormonal balance in this group was completely disturbed by the treatment. The physiological role of prolactin in the seasonal moulting cycle in mink is discussed.

J. Endocr. (1984) 103,9–15