Does melatonin modulate beta-endorphin, corticosterone, and pain threshold? Academic Article uri icon


  • Converging lines of evidence suggest that the pineal hormone, melatonin, may regulate changes in pain threshold by modulating fluctuations in opioid receptor expression and levels of beta-endorphin (beta-END). This study investigated whether the circadian oscillation in plasma melatonin is involved in the modulation of plasma beta-END immunoreactivity (beta-END-ir), and whether fluctuations in pain threshold measured using the hotplate test are contingent upon the fluctuation of these two hormones in Rattus Norvegicus. The role of melatonin was explored using light-induced functional pinealectomy (LFPX) to suppress nocturnal melatonin release. Pinealectomized rats were found to have significantly elevated levels of beta-END-ir compared to control animals at both photophase (398 +/- 89 pg/ml versus 180 +/- 23 pg/ml) and scotophase (373 +/- 45 pg/ml versus 203 +/- 20 pg/ml) test-periods, thus supporting the putative melatonin-opioid axis. Similarly, latency to pain threshold of LFPX rats was significantly longer when compared to control animals at photophase (7.3 +/- 1.4 sec versus 4.8 +/- 0.7 sec) and scotophase (6.3 +/- 0.7 sec versus 5.1 +/- 0.7 sec). Previous studies have produced conflicting data regarding the role of the pineal system in modulating levels of corticosterone (CORT). We observed a moderate, but non-significant, increase in the CORT concentration of LFPX rats during the photophase test period.

publication date

  • 2000