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PJ Morgan, AW Ross, JG Mercer, and P Barrett

The photoperiodic mammal undergoes quite remarkable changes in physiology as part of its natural adaptations to seasonal fluctuations in the environment. Changes in energy balance and body weight are among these adaptations. In some seasonal mammals, such as the Siberian hamster (Phodopus sungorus), these changes in body weight have been explored in detail, and there is evidence for tightly controlled systems of energy balance that are coordinated by photoperiod acting via the temporal pattern of melatonin secretion from the pineal gland. The pathways and systems involved appear to be quite distinct from the hypothalamic pathways identified to regulate energy balance in studies of both mice and rats thus far. Instead it appears that in the Siberian hamster a tightly regulated system under the control of photoperiod is able to reset the tone of the systems involved in energy balance regulation. Understanding how photoperiod and melatonin act within the hypothalamus to regulate energy balance offers potentially fundamental and important new insights into the control of energy balance. This review describes the current state of our knowledge.

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JE Drew, LM Williams, LT Hannah, P Barrett, and DR Abramovich

Melatonin receptors in the human fetal kidney were identified and characterized by quantitative in vitro autoradiography using the melatonin agonist, 2-[125I]iodomelatonin. Specific binding was localized to cells in the nephrogenic region at the outer perimeter of the developing kidney and was time-dependent, saturable and inhibited in the presence of guanosine 5'-0-(3-thiotriphosphate) indicative of a G protein-coupled receptor. Expression of the Mel1a and Mel1b melatonin receptors in human fetal kidney was determined using RT-PCR. In situ hybridization confirmed the localization of the Mel1a mRNA transcripts. A role for melatonin in development of the human fetal kidney is postulated.