Daily variations in plasma melatonin levels in the rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss were studied under various light and temperature conditions. Plasma melatonin levels were higher at mid-dark than those at mid-light under light-dark (LD) cycles. An acute exposure to darkness (2 hr) during the light phase significantly elevated the plasma melatonin to the level that is comparable with those at mid-dark, while an acute exposure to a light pulse (2 hr) during the dark phase significantly suppressed melatonin to the level that is comparable with those at mid-light. Plasma melatonin kept constantly high and low levels under constant darkness and constant light, respectively. No circadian rhythm was seen under both conditions. When the fish were subjected to simulative seasonal conditions (simulative (S)-spring: under LD 13.1:10.9 at 13°C; S-summer: under LD 14.3:9.7 at 16.5°C; S-autumn: under LD 11.3:12.7 at 13°C; S-winter: under LD 10.1:13.9 at 9°C), melatonin levels during the dark phase were significantly higher than those during the light phase irrespective of simulative seasons. The peak melatonin level in each simulative season significantly correlated with temperature but not with the length of the dark phase employed. In addition, the peak melatonin level in S-autumn was significantly higher than those in S-spring although water temperature was the same under these conditions. These results indicate that the melatonin rhythm in the trout plasma is not regulated by an endogenous circadian clock but by combination of photoperiod and water temperature.
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