Open Access
Reprod. Nutr. Dev.
Volume 46, Number 6, November-December 2006
Page(s) 633 - 639
Published online 15 December 2006
Reprod. Nutr. Dev. 46 (2006) 633-639
DOI: 10.1051/rnd:2006043

Variability of plasma melatonin level in pony mares (Equus caballus), comparison with the hybrid: mules and with jennies (Equus asinus)

Daniel Guillaume, Luiz A. Zarazaga, Benoît Malpaux and Philippe Chemineau

Neurobiologie et maîtrise des fonctions saisonnières, UMR 6175 INRA-CNRS-Université de Tours- Haras Nationaux, Physiologie de la Reproduction et des Comportements, 37380 Nouzilly, France

(Received 13 October 2005; accepted 7 July 2006; published online 15 December 2006)

Abstract - In long-day breeders like horses, the length of nocturnal melatonin secretion is the main messenger of photoperiod. Previous studies have shown that the nocturnal jugular melatonin concentration is lower in horses, than in mules but is unknown in donkeys. The aim of this study was to estimate the inter-animal variability of plasma melatonin concentration in domestic mares and to compare this concentration with those observed in domestic jennies and in their hybrid mules. In the autumn, blood samples were collected at 22 h, 23 h, 0 h and 1 h during 2 nights at 3 weeks intervals, in 110 pony mares, 10 jennies and 6 mules maintained under natural photoperiod. Melatonin was assayed by a validated RIA method. The statistical analysis of the measures was done with a specific unbalanced analysis of variance model. The effect of species and individuals (nested under species) was highly significant. The mean melatonin concentration was 24 pg.mL-1 in mares and was significantly lower than in jennies and in mules which were 90 pg.mL-1 and 169 pg.mL-1 respectively. The melatonin plasma concentration was higher in jennies than in mares. These results suggest that the melatonin concentration is genetically determined.

Key words: melatonin / equine species / genetic / photoperiod

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© INRA, EDP Sciences 2006