TitleA serotonin receptor antagonist, but not melatonin, modulates hormonal responses to capture stress in two populations of garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis and Thamnophis sirtalis concinnus)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsLutterschmidt, DI, Mason, RT
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
Type of ArticleJournal Article

Hormonal and behavioral responses to a stressor depend on many factors, including the influence of other hormones. We examined the role of melatonin in modulating hormonal responses to capture stress in two Populations of male garter snakes, Thamnophis sirtalis. Studies of red-sided (T. sirtalis parietalis) and red-spotted (T. sirtalis concinnus) garter snakes were conducted in the field with free-living snakes. Populations Of red-sided garter snakes in south-central Manitoba, Canada undergo a period of winter dormancy for approximately 8 months each year followed by an attenuated mating season (4-5 weeks) in early spring. In contrast, the mid-latitude red-spotted garter snake in western Oregon, USA has an extended breeding season and can be active during 10-12 months of the year given appropriate environmental conditions. We chose to Study these two Populations of garter snakes to investigate possible variation in melatonin function among snakes with different suites of environmental adaptations. To better address these questions, we also examined the effects of 5-hydroxytryptophan (a precursor of melatonin synthesis) and ketanscrin (a serotonergic type 2A receptor antagonist) on hormonal responses to capture stress. We observed a trend of increased corticosterone and decreased androgen concentrations in northern-latitude red-sided garter snakes (T. sirtalis parietalis) Subjected to 4 h of capture stress during the spring. However. these differences were not statistically significant. During the fall, red-sided garter snakes showed no change in corticosterone or androgen concentrations in response to the capture stress treatments. We speculate that northern-latitude red-sided garter snakes suppress hormonal responses to capture stress during preparation for winter dormancy. Treatment with melatonin, 5-hydroxytryptophan, or ketanserin did not significantly influence corticosterone or androgen concentrations of northern-latitude red-sided garter snakes during the spring or fall. Mid-latitude red-spotted garter snakes (T. sirtalis concinnus) from Oregon showed a statistically significant increase in corticosterone concentrations in response to 4 h of capture stress; treatment with melatonin, 5-hydroxytryptophan, or ketanserin prior to capture stress had no significant influence on plasma corticosterone concentrations. Androgen concentrations of mid-latitude red-spotted garter snakes in response to capture stress were significantly lower than those of non-stressed control snakes. Neither melatonin nor 5-hydroxytryptophan influenced the change in androgen concentrations during capture stress. However, androgen concentrations of snakes treated with ketanserin prior to 4 h of capture stress did not differ significantly front those of non-stressed control snakes. These Studies suggest that melatonin does not modulate hormonal responses to capture stress in this ectothermic model. Our results also suggest that a serotonin-regulated system may play a role in modulating the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gondal axis during physiological stress responses. (c) 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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