Age-related morphometric changes in the pineal gland. A comparative study between C57BL/6J and CBA mice


  • Rafael Cernuda Cernuda
  • J. J. Huerta
  • M. Muñoz Llamosas
  • M. Álvarez Uría
  • J. M. Garcia Fernández


pineal, mouse, CBA, C57BL/6J, aging


Relatively little is known about the effects of melatonin on the aging of the pineal, the organ which is the main place for synthesis of this hormone. Using simple morphometric methods, some parameters of the pineal gland, such as total volume, number of pinealocytes and pinealocyte volume were estimated in two mice strains: normal CBA and melatonin-deficient C57BL/6J. Two age groups, 6 weeks and 10 months, were studied in order to evaluate possible differential age-related changes between both strains. Pineals of both strains have similar morphometric and morphological features at 6 weeks of age. This suggests that pineal development, which has already concluded at 6 weeks of age, is not affected by the absence of melatonin synthesis in the pinealocytes. Later on, CBA pineal showed an increase in size caused by cellular hypertrophy. In contrast, the C57BL/6J pineal volume decreased by loss of pinealocytes in the same period of time. Semithin sections analysed by light microscopy did not show that this cell death was evident in the C57BL/6J strain at any of the ages studied. Thus, a gradual loss of pinealocytes could be hypothesised in these pineals. These results suggest that pineal melatonin could have a role in the maintenance of pinealocyte viability and the increase of pineal size which takes place after development. The abnormal pattern observed in the C57BL/6J pineal should be taken into account in future studies on this gland.