OBJECTIVES: Superior cervical ganglia are of crucial importance in regulating the secretion of the pineal hormone melatonin. Changes in pineal morphology have been observed in many mammalian species after sympathectomy. Therefore, we decided to investigate the ultrastructure of Djungarian hamster pinealocytes following superior cervical ganglionectomy.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: Eight adult female Djungarian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus) were used in this study. The superior cervical ganglia were removed bilaterally in four animals, whereas the other four animals served as sham-operated controls. The pineal glands were removed four weeks after the operation and processed for electron microscopic study. The cross-sectional areas of pinealocyte and its nucleus, and relative volume of mitochondria, Golgi apparatus, lysosomes, granular endoplasmic reticulum, and glycogen particles as well as the numbers of dense-core vesicles and "synaptic" ribbons were estimated using a digital analyzer connected on-line to IBM-PC computer. Statistical analysis of the data was performed using Student's t test and Snedecor F test.
RESULTS: Significant reduction in the cross-sectional areas of the pinealocyte and its nucleus as well as in the relative volumes of mitochondria and glycogen particles was observed after superior cervical ganglionectomy in comparison with sham-operated controls. Sympathectomy resulted also in reduction of the number of dense-core vesicles. On the contrary 2,5 fold increase in the number of "synaptic" ribbons was observed in ganglionectomized animals in comparison to sham-operated controls.
CONCLUSION: Deprivation of sympathetic innervation leads in Djungarian hamsters not only to suppression of melatonin synthesis and secretions but, as appears from our studies, induces also morphological changes suggesting lower metabolic and secretory activity of pinealocytes.