The pineal hormone melatonin controls reproduction of photoperiodic mammals and is an integral part of the circadian organization in birds. Recent findings indicate an involvement of this hormone also in more basic physiological processes, including growth, development, and aging. Melatonin may modulate growth in poultry through interaction with transcriptional factors, through interaction with hormones involved in growth control, and by modulation of energy metabolism and decreasing physical activity. Our studies showed that a single melatonin injection increased plasma growth hormone (GH) concentrations in the Japanese quail. Specific serotonin receptor blocker ketanserin did not preclude a stimulatory action of melatonin on GH synthesis. Serotonin agonist quipazine increased GH levels but failed to enhance the stimulatory effect of melatonin. Pretreatment with melatonin in drinking water did not affect the magnitude of the GH response to subcutaneous (s.c.) administration of thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH) that considerably stimulated GH secretion. Present data suggest that melatonin modulates rather central neural pathways involved in the control of GH synthesis at the hypothalamic level than the sensitivity of the pituitary gland. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.