Modulatory effects of melatonin on behavior, hemolymph metabolites, and neurotransmitter release in crayfish

Andrea R. Tilden, Rebecca Brauch, Ryan Ball, Aura M. Janze, Ali H. Ghaffari, Catherine T. Sweeney, Jamie C. Yurek, Robin L. Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Melatonin affects a variety of circadian processes such as behavior and neurotransmitter release in vertebrates. Crayfish melatonin production occurs in the eyestalks, and the cycle of production may change seasonally. To date, however, melatonin's roles and mechanisms of action in crustacean physiology are unclear. We injected melatonin or saline into crayfish in scotophase and monitored activity and hemolymph glucose/lactate over 24 h in early spring. Crayfish were significantly more active in photophase versus the expected scotophase, and had concurrent glucose/lactate peaks. Melatonin reversed the activity pattern, causing a scotophase activity peak, but not the glucose/lactate patterns. This study was repeated in late summer, during which control activity and glucose/lactate levels were elevated in scotophase. Melatonin decreased the amplitude of scotophase activity and glucose/lactate, eliminating activity and glucose cycles. We also injected melatonin or saline at various times of day in early summer and monitored locomotor activity for 1 h. Controls had high activity at 1200 (mid-photophase) and 2100 h (early scotophase), and melatonin increased activity at 1200 h but decreased it at 2100 h. Melatonin also increased activity at 1500 h but not 1800 h (late photophase). Next, we examined the influence of melatonin on crayfish neurophysiology. Melatonin (10 μM) enhanced synaptic transmission at the neuromuscular junction (NMJ). The presynaptic action resulted in more vesicles being released during evoked stimulation. Our study indicates that melatonin may have a phylogenetically conserved role in the transduction of circadian information in invertebrates as in vertebrates. Behavioral and physiological effects may be mediated by modulation of central pathways, enhanced at the peripheral level via neuromodulation of the NMJ.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)252-262
Number of pages11
JournalBrain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 5 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research and Creativity Summer Fellowship, University of KY (Ryan Ball), Howard Hughes Medical Institute (A.R.T.), Clare Boothe Luce Program of the Henry Luce Foundation (A.R.T.), and NSF grants IBN-9808631 and ILI DUE-9850907 (R.L.C.).


  • Activity pattern
  • Crayfish
  • Locomotion
  • Melatonin
  • Metabolite
  • Neuromuscular junction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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