The pharmacodynamics of serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) uptake and release were studied in rat pineal glands. Initially, uptake was tested by incubating pineals with several concentrations of [3H]5-HT. The incubation media also contained [14C]mannitol to which cells are impermeable. Since [14C]mannitol accumulates only in extracellular spaces, the radio-labelled sugar was used to determine the differential distribution of [3H]5-HT in pineal compartments.
Intracellular accumulation of 3H in pineal glands increased linearly as a function of time for [3H]5-HT concentrations ranging from 1 to 10 μmol/l. The ratio of 3H to 14C also increased for the same time-interval, indicating that the glands accumulated [3H]5-HT preferentially in non-extracellular spaces. [3H]5-HT accumulated in pineal glands which were denervated for more than 7 days before testing, suggesting that uptake is not restricted to adrenergic terminals but also occurs in pinealocytes.
In addition to uptake, spontaneous and noradrenaline-stimulated release of [3H]5-HT was tested in perifusion and/or step-transfer systems. Spontaneous release of [3H]5-HT was biphasic consisting of rapid and slower efflux phases. In contrast, release of [14C]mannitol was monophasic, characterized exclusively by rapid efflux. Since [14C]mannitol does not enter cells, the rapid and slower phases of [3H]5-HT efflux may represent release from pineal extracellular and intracellular compartments respectively. The identity of [3H]5-HT in pineal glands and perifusion media was confirmed by thin-layer chromatography. When l-noradrenaline was added to the perifusion media, [3H]5-HT efflux during the slower phase of release was significantly increased above the non-stimulated state. In contrast, d-noradrenaline was significantly less effective than l-noradrenaline in releasing [3H]5-HT. Noradrenaline also stimulated [3H]5-HT release from denervated glands, suggesting that pinealocytes secrete 5-HT in response to noradrenergic signals.
Since the pineal is innervated by fibres of the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system, differential release of 5-HT may occur in response to changing levels of glandular noradrenaline.
J. Endocr. (1987) 114, 3–9