The enzyme arylalkylamine N-acetyltransferase (AANAT; EC 188.8.131.52) has been conventionally linked with the biosynthesis of melatonin within the pineal gland and retina. This study establishes that AANAT messenger RNA (mRNA) and functional enzyme occurs within the pars tuberalis (PT) and to a lesser degree within the pars distalis (PD) of the sheep pituitary gland; expression in these tissues is approximately 1/15th (PT) and 1/300th (PD) of that in the ovine pineal gland. AANAT mRNA in the PT appears to be expressed in the same cells as the Mel1a receptor. No evidence was obtained to indicate that either PT or PD cells have the ability to synthesize melatonin, suggesting that this enzyme plays a different functional role in the pituitary. We also found that cAMP regulation of the abundance of AANAT mRMA differs between the PT and pineal gland. Forskolin(10 mu M) has no effect on pineal AANAT mRNA levels, yet represses expression in the PT. This suppressive influence could be mediated by ICER (inducible cAMP response early repressor), which is induced by forskolin in both tissues. Although it appears that the specific function and regulation of AANAT in the pituitary gland differ from that in the pineal gland, it seems likely that AANAT may play a role in the broader area of signal transduction through the biotransformation of amines.
- melatonin receptors
- mammalian retina