Peripheral autonomic nerves of human pineal organ terminate on vessels, their supposed role in the periodic secretion of pineal melatonin
Nonvisual pineal and retinal photoreceptors are synchronizing circadian and circannual periodicity to the environmental light periods in the function of various organs. Melatonin of the pineal organ is secreted at night and represents an important factor of this periodic regulation. Night illumination suppressing melatonin secretion may result in pathological events like breast and colorectal cancer. Experimental works demonstrated the role of autonomic nerves in the pineal melatonin secretion. It was supposed that mammalian pineals have lost their photoreceptor capacity that is present in submammalians, and sympathetic fibers would mediate light information from the retina to regulate melatonin secretion. Retinal afferentation may reach the organ by central nerve fibers via the pineal habenulae as well. In our earlier works we have found that the pineal organ developing from lobular evaginations of the epithalamus differs from peripheral endocrine glands and is composed of a retina‐like central nervous tissue that is comprised of cone‐like pinealocytes, secondary pineal neurons and glial cells. Their autonomic nerves in submammalians as well as in mammalian animals do not terminate on pineal cells, rather, they run in the meningeal septa among pineal lobules and form vasomotor nerve endings. Concerning the adult human pineal there are no detailed fine structural data about the termination of autonomic fibers, therefore, in the present work we investigated the ultrastructure of the human pineal peripheral autonomic nerve fibers. It was found, that similarly to other parts of the brain, autonomic nerves do not enter the human pineal nervous tissue itself but separated by glial limiting membranes take their course in the meningeal septa of the organ and terminate on vessels by vasomotor endings. We suppose that these autonomic vasomotor nerves serve the regulation of the pineal blood supply according to the circadian and circannual changes of the metabolic activity of the organ and support by this effect the secretion of pineal neurohormones including melatonin.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2012-08-01