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Evidence For The Participation Of A Melanin-concentrating Hormone In Physiological Colour Change In The Eel

I. D. Gilham, B. I. Baker

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ABSTRACT The hormonal and nervous control of colour change in the eel has been investigated. The only bioactive forms of MSH found in eel pituitary extracts or secreted by eel pituitary cultures were forms of α-MSH; no β-MSH was detected. After transfer of eels from a black to a white background, the melanin concentration in skin melanophores was accompanied by a rapid decline in plasma α-MSH titres. Hypophysectomy resulted in melanin concentration, and pituitary extracts injected into hypophysectomized eels caused melanin dispersion. This effect was eliminated if the pituitary extracts were first incubated with a specific α-MSH antiserum or if the antiserum was injected into the hypophysectomized eel. However, injection of α-MSH antiserum into intact, black-adapted eels failed to result in melanin concentration although the same antiserum was effective in causing pallor in black-adapted toads. Partially purified preparations of teleost melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH), free from catecholamines, induced melanin concentration when injected into black-adapted eels and this effect was significantly potentiated by injections of α-MSH antiserum. The denervation of melanophores on the pectoral fin had only a slight effect on the responses of the melanophores to humoral agents. It is concluded that the control of physiological colour change in the eel is largely hormonal, and involves the antagonistic effects of α-MSH and a melanin-concentrating agent which is probably MCH. J. Endocr. (1984) 102, 237–243