The effects of pinealectomy and administration of melatonin, the major secretory product of the pineal gland, which is a direct free radical scavenger and an indirect antioxidant, were studied in rat hearts on the basis of cardiac morphology and biochemical findings. Three groups of Wistar rats were used: one group was the shamoperated control, one group consisted of pinealectomized rats and one group consisted of pinealectomized rats that were treated with melatonin. Serum cholesterol, tissue levels of malondialdehyde (MDA) and reduced glutathione (GSH), and heart weight were determined. Histochemical staining with the Van Gieson, PAS/ Alcian blue at pH 2.5 and Masson's trichrome methods were performed in addition to hematoxylin-eosin staining. Levels of serum cholesterol and tissue MDA, and heart weight were increased in pinealectomized rats whereas GSH levels did not change. Melatonin administration reversed these effects. Microscopically, myocardial fibrosis and myxomatous degeneration of cardiac valves were detected in all pinealectomized rats. It can be concluded that pineatectomy of rats causes morphological changes in rat hearts, and short-term application of metatonin does not reverse these changes. (C) 2003 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.