The roles of photoperiod, melatonin, and the pineal gland in regulating the magnitude of compensatory gonadal hypertrophy (CGH) and other reproductive and non-reproductive organ growth during post-weaning development were examined in the marsh rice rat Oryzomys palustris. Juvenile rice rats of both sexes were left gonadally intact (control group) or unilaterally castrated (ULC) and housed on 12L:12D, 14L:10D, or 16L:8D. Within a photoperiod (14L:10D and 16L:8D, but not 12L:12D), growth of the remaining testis, but not the remaining ovary, as well as several additional organs in both sexes were significantly affected, suggesting that the compensatory hypertrophy of the testis is photoperiod-dependent. There was no effect of testis asymmetry on CGH as ULC of either testis in rice rats housed on 14L:10D resulted in a comparable increase of CGH. Melatonin implants in rice rats maintained on 16L:8D had little to no effect (CGH included) on most parameters examined. Both melatonin implants and pinealectomy (separate experiments) in rice rats transferred to 12L:12D prevented short photoperiod-induced effects on CGH, the growth of the reproductive organs and the Harderian glands. Evening melatonin injections had a significant inhibitory effect on the growth of the remaining testis (no CGH was observed) and all other parameters measured. Lastly, ULC did not alter the percentage of males which successfully mated compared to intact animals. Taken together, these data suggest that photoperiod, melatonin, and the pineal gland can affect and regulate reproductive (e.g., CGH in some cases) and non-reproductive growth during postnatal development in the marsh rice rat.
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