OBJECTIVES: The morphological and biochemical aspects of the pineal gland of pregnant and non-pregnant female vizcachas were investigated to examine whether there is a relationship between the pregnancy and this gland.
METHODS: Pregnant and non-pregnant adult female vizcachas were used. The ultrastructure of type I cell (dark and light pinealocytes) was studied. Pineal and serum melatonin were investigated by radioimmunoassay. Radiometric methods were applied to investigate the arylalkylamine-N-acetyltransferase (AA-NAT) and hydroxyindole-O-methyltransferase (HIOMT) activities.
RESULTS: The morphological study showed the existence of dark and light pinealocytes. The differences between both cells are slight. However, the appearance of dark pinealocytes suggests that they have a high activity. These cells were more abundant in the pineal gland of pregnant females. The pineal melatonin levels and the AA-NAT activity were higher in the pregnant females. Serum melatonin and HIOMT activity did not show significant differences.
CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that the morphological and biochemical changes in the pineal gland of pregnant vizcachas are associated with the gestation. However, the relation between the pineal gland and the pregnancy is complex and further studies are necessaries to clearly establish it.