Pineal serotonin (5-HT), 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), norepinephrine (NE) and dopamine (DA) were measured by high-pressure liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection and serum melatonin was measured by radioimmunoassay in rats aged 3 weeks, 8 weeks and 18 months. They were killed either at mid-light or mid-dark of a 12 h light:12 h dark cycle. Diurnal rhythms were observed for 5-HT and 5-HIAA in all ages studied while those for NE and DA were not observed in the 18-month-old animals. Pineal 5-HT and 5-HIAA were higher in 3-week-old rats at mid-dark, and lower at mid-light than in older animals. The pineal content of NE was lower in the 3-week-old rats at mid-dark and mid-light compared with that in the 8-week-old while the DA content was lower at mid-dark. In addition, pineal 5-HT, 5-HIAA, NE and DA were lower in the 18-month-old than in the 8-week-old animals at mid-dark. At mid-dark serum melatonin levels showed an age-related decrease. This study shows that an age-related decrease of pineal 5-HT, 5-HIAA, NE and DA can only be demonstrated at mid-dark and that the age-related decrease of melatonin may not be due to a decrease in sympathetic activity.

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