08 November 1996
The effect of pinealectomy, superior cervical ganglionectomy and melatonin replacement on diurnal variations in submaxillary lymph node ornithine decarboxylase activity, tyrosine hydroxylase activity and [<sup>3</sup>H]choline conversion to [<sup>3</sup>H]acetylcholine were examined in rats subjected to pinealectomy, bilateral superior cervical ganglionectomy or their respective sham-operations, and treated with Freund''s complete adjuvant or its vehicle. In both immunized and nonimmunized sham-operated rats, significant diurnal variations in ornithine decarboxylase activity were detectable, with a maximum at 13.00 h (vehicle) or at 17.00 h (Freund''s adjuvant). In rats subjected to pinealectomy, ornithine decarboxylase activity decreased by about half, still exhibiting significant diurnal variations with a maximum at 13.00 h. Abolition of circadian rhythmicity and depression of ornithine decarboxylase activity to about one third of controls were found in submaxillary lymph nodes of bilaterally superior cervical ganglionectomized rats. Administration of melatonin (30 µg/animal) in the late evening during 11 days counteracted the depressed levels and suppressed the amplitude of diurnal rhythmicity of ornithine decarboxylase in pinealectomized or bilaterally superior cervical ganglionectomized rats, as well as augmented enzyme activity in sham-operated controls. The amplitude and mean levels of 24-hour rhythms in submaxillary lymph node tyrosine hydroxylase activity and [<sup>3</sup>H]choline conversion to acetylcholine (that attained their maxima at 21.00–1.00 and 13.00–17.00 h, respectively) decreased significantly after pinealectomy, these effects being significantly counteracted by melatonin injection. Melatonin augmented tyrosine hydroxylase activity and acetylcholine synthesis in sham-pinealectomized rats. The results are compatible with the view that the pineal gland plays a role in circadian changes of immune responsiveness in lymphoid tissue via an immunopo-tentiating effect of melatonin on lymph node cell proliferation.