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1.  Melatonin Receptor Genes in Vertebrates 
Melatonin receptors are members of the G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) family. Three genes for melatonin receptors have been cloned. The MT1 (or Mel1a or MTNR1A) and MT2 (or Mel1b or MTNR1B) receptor subtypes are present in humans and other mammals, while an additional melatonin receptor subtype, Mel1c (or MTNR1C), has been identified in fish, amphibians and birds. Another melatonin related orphan receptor, GPR50, which does not bind melatonin, is found exclusively in mammals. The hormone melatonin is secreted primarily by the pineal gland, with highest levels occurring during the dark period of a circadian cycle. This hormone acts systemically in numerous organs. In the brain, it is involved in the regulation of various neural and endocrine processes, and it readjusts the circadian pacemaker, the suprachiasmatic nucleus. This article reviews recent studies of gene organization, expression, evolution and mutations of melatonin receptor genes of vertebrates. Gene polymorphisms reveal that numerous mutations are associated with diseases and disorders. The phylogenetic analysis of receptor genes indicates that GPR50 is an outgroup to all other melatonin receptor sequences. GPR50 may have separated from a melatonin receptor ancestor before the split between MTNR1C and the MTNR1A/B ancestor.
doi:10.3390/ijms140611208
PMCID: PMC3709728  PMID: 23712359
melatonin receptor; evolution; vertebrates
2.  Chronobiology of Melatonin beyond the Feedback to the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus—Consequences to Melatonin Dysfunction 
The mammalian circadian system is composed of numerous oscillators, which gradually differ with regard to their dependence on the pacemaker, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Actions of melatonin on extra-SCN oscillators represent an emerging field. Melatonin receptors are widely expressed in numerous peripheral and central nervous tissues. Therefore, the circadian rhythm of circulating, pineal-derived melatonin can have profound consequences for the temporal organization of almost all organs, without necessarily involving the melatonin feedback to the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Experiments with melatonin-deficient mouse strains, pinealectomized animals and melatonin receptor knockouts, as well as phase-shifting experiments with explants, reveal a chronobiological role of melatonin in various tissues. In addition to directly steering melatonin-regulated gene expression, the pineal hormone is required for the rhythmic expression of circadian oscillator genes in peripheral organs and to enhance the coupling of parallel oscillators within the same tissue. It exerts additional effects by modulating the secretion of other hormones. The importance of melatonin for numerous organs is underlined by the association of various diseases with gene polymorphisms concerning melatonin receptors and the melatonin biosynthetic pathway. The possibilities and limits of melatonergic treatment are discussed with regard to reductions of melatonin during aging and in various diseases.
doi:10.3390/ijms14035817
PMCID: PMC3634486  PMID: 23481642
age-related diseases; aging; circadian; melatonergic agonists; melatonin; MT1, MT2, peripheral oscillators; polymorphisms
3.  A Comparison of B16 Melanoma Cells and 3T3 Fibroblasts Concerning Cell Viability and ROS Production in the Presence of Melatonin, Tested Over a Wide Range of Concentrations 
Melatonin is a pleiotropic molecule with many cellular and systemic actions, including chronobiotic effects. Beneficial effects are widely documented concerning the treatment of neoplastic diseases in vivo as well as reductions in viability of cultured cells from melanoma, one of the most aggressive cancers in humans. However, studies of its effects on non-tumor cells in vitro have not focused on viability, except for experiments aiming to protect against oxidotoxicity or other toxicological insults. Furthermore, there is no agreement on the range of effective melatonin concentrations in vitro, and the mechanisms that reduce cell viability have remained unclear. Tumor cell-specific increases in the production of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS/RNS) may provide a possible explanation. Our aim was to analyze the potential inhibition of tumor (B16 melanoma 4A5) and non-tumor cell (3T3 Swiss albino) viability using a wide range of melatonin concentrations (10−11–10−2 M), and to determine whether intracellular ROS enhancement was involved in this process. In the absence of fetal bovine serum (FBS), low melatonin concentrations (10−9–10−5 M) reduced the proliferation of melanoma cells with no effect in fibroblasts, whereas, in the presence of FBS, they had no effect or even increased the proliferation of both fibroblast and melanoma cells. Melatonin concentrations in the upper millimolar range increased ROS levels and reduced the viability of both cell types, but more markedly so in non-tumor cells. Thus, low melatonin concentrations reduce proliferation in this specific melanoma cell line, whereas high concentrations affect the viability of both tumor (B16 4A5 melanoma) and non-tumor (3T3 fibroblasts) cells. Increased ROS levels in both lines indicate a role for ROS production in the reduction of cell viability at high—but not low—melatonin concentrations, although the mechanism of action still remains to be elucidated.
doi:10.3390/ijms14023901
PMCID: PMC3588077  PMID: 23434670
melanoma; fibroblast; melatonin; cell viability; intracellular ROS; tumor cell cultures; non-tumor cell cultures; in vitro
4.  Neurobiology, Pathophysiology, and Treatment of Melatonin Deficiency and Dysfunction 
The Scientific World Journal  2012;2012:640389.
Melatonin is a highly pleiotropic signaling molecule, which is released as a hormone of the pineal gland predominantly during night. Melatonin secretion decreases during aging. Reduced melatonin levels are also observed in various diseases, such as types of dementia, some mood disorders, severe pain, cancer, and diabetes type 2. Melatonin dysfunction is frequently related to deviations in amplitudes, phasing, and coupling of circadian rhythms. Gene polymorphisms of melatonin receptors and circadian oscillator proteins bear risks for several of the diseases mentioned. A common symptom of insufficient melatonin signaling is sleep disturbances. It is necessary to distinguish between symptoms that are curable by short melatonergic actions and others that require extended actions during night. Melatonin immediate release is already effective, at moderate doses, for reducing difficulties of falling asleep or improving symptoms associated with poorly coupled circadian rhythms, including seasonal affective and bipolar disorders. For purposes of a replacement therapy based on longer-lasting melatonergic actions, melatonin prolonged release and synthetic agonists have been developed. Therapies with melatonin or synthetic melatonergic drugs have to consider that these agents do not only act on the SCN, but also on numerous organs and cells in which melatonin receptors are also expressed.
doi:10.1100/2012/640389
PMCID: PMC3354573  PMID: 22629173
5.  Melatonin in Aging and Disease —Multiple Consequences of Reduced Secretion, Options and Limits of Treatment 
Aging and Disease  2011;3(2):194-225.
Melatonin is a pleiotropically acting regulator molecule, which influences numerous physiological functions. Its secretion by the pineal gland progressively declines by age. Strong reductions of circulating melatonin are also observed in numerous disorders and diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, various other neurological and stressful conditions, pain, cardiovascular diseases, cases of cancer, endocrine and metabolic disorders, in particular diabetes type 2. The significance of melatonergic signaling is also evident from melatonin receptor polymorphisms associated with several of these pathologies. The article outlines the mutual relationship between circadian oscillators and melatonin secretion, the possibilities for readjustment of rhythms by melatonin and its synthetic analogs, the consequences for circadian rhythm-dependent disorders concerning sleep and mood, and limits of treatment. The necessity of distinguishing between short-acting melatonergic effects, which are successful in sleep initiation and phase adjustments, and attempts of replacement strategies is emphasized. Properties of approved and some investigational melatonergic agonists are compared.
PMCID: PMC3377831  PMID: 22724080
Alzheimer’s Disease; Circadian Rhythms; Diabetes; Melatonin; Mood Disorders; Parkinson’s Disease; Sleep
6.  Pharmacotherapy of Insomnia with Ramelteon: Safety, Efficacy and Clinical Applications 
Ramelteon is a tricyclic synthetic analog of melatonin that acts specifically on MT1 and MT2 melatonin receptors. Ramelteon is the first melatonin receptor agonist approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of insomnia characterized by sleep onset difficulties. Ramelteon is both a chronobiotic and a hypnotic that has been shown to promote sleep initiation and maintenance in various preclinical and in clinical trials. The efficacy and safety of ramelteon in patients with chronic insomnia was initially confirmed in short-term placebo-controlled trials. These showed little evidence of next-day residual effects, withdrawal symptoms or rebound insomnia. Other studies indicated that ramelteon lacked abuse potential and had a minimal risk of producing dependence or adverse effects on cognitive or psychomotor performance. A 6-month placebo-controlled international study and a 1-year open-label study in the USA demonstrated that ramelteon was effective and well tolerated. Other potential off-label uses of ramelteon include circadian rhythm sleep disorders such as shift-work and jet lag. At the present time the drug should be cautiously prescribed for short-term treatment only.
doi:10.4137/JCNSD.S1611
PMCID: PMC3663615  PMID: 23861638
circadian rhythms; hypnotic; insomnia; melatonin; ramelteon; sleep
7.  Melatonin Metabolism in the Central Nervous System 
Current Neuropharmacology  2010;8(3):168-181.
The metabolism of melatonin in the central nervous system is of interest for several reasons. Melatonin enters the brain either via the pineal recess or by uptake from the blood. It has been assumed to be also formed in some brain areas. Neuroprotection by melatonin has been demonstrated in numerous model systems, and various attempts have been undertaken to counteract neurodegeneration by melatonin treatment. Several concurrent pathways lead to different products. Cytochrome P450 subforms have been demonstrated in the brain. They either demethylate melatonin to N-acetylserotonin, or produce 6-hydroxymelatonin, which is mostly sulfated already in the CNS. Melatonin is deacetylated, at least in pineal gland and retina, to 5-methoxytryptamine. N1-acetyl-N2-formyl-5-methoxykynuramine is formed by pyrrole-ring cleavage, by myeloperoxidase, indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase and various non-enzymatic oxidants. Its product, N1-acetyl-5-methoxykynuramine, is of interest as a scavenger of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, mitochondrial modulator, downregulator of cyclooxygenase-2, inhibitor of cyclooxygenase, neuronal and inducible NO synthases. Contrary to other nitrosated aromates, the nitrosated kynuramine metabolite, 3-acetamidomethyl-6-methoxycinnolinone, does not re-donate NO. Various other products are formed from melatonin and its metabolites by interaction with reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. The relative contribution of the various pathways to melatonin catabolism seems to be influenced by microglia activation, oxidative stress and brain levels of melatonin, which may be strongly changed in experiments on neuroprotection. Many of the melatonin metabolites, which may appear in elevated concentrations after melatonin administration, possess biological or pharmacological properties, including N-acetylserotonin, 5-methoxytryptamine and some of its derivatives, and especially the 5-methoxylated kynuramines.
doi:10.2174/157015910792246244
PMCID: PMC3001211  PMID: 21358968
Kynuramines; melatonin; 5-methoxytryptamine; N-acetylserotonin; reactive nitrogen species; reactive oxygen species; 6-sulfatoxymelatonin.
8.  New approaches in the management of insomnia: weighing the advantages of prolonged-release melatonin and synthetic melatoninergic agonists 
Hypnotic effects of melatonin and melatoninergic drugs are mediated via MT1 and MT2 receptors, especially those in the circadian pacemaker, the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which acts on the hypothalamic sleep switch. Therefore, they differ fundamentally from GABAergic hypnotics. Melatoninergic agonists primarily favor sleep initiation and reset the circadian clock to phases allowing persistent sleep, as required in circadian rhythm sleep disorders. A major obstacle for the use of melatonin to support sleep maintenance in primary insomnia results from its short half-life in the circulation. Solutions to this problem have been sought by developing prolonged-release formulations of the natural hormone, or melatoninergic drugs of longer half-life, such as ramelteon, tasimelteon and agomelatine. With all these drugs, improvements of sleep are statistically demonstrable, but remain limited, especially in primary chronic insomnia, so that GABAergic drugs may be indicated. Melatoninergic agonists do not cause next-day hangover and withdrawal effects, or dependence. They do not induce behavioral changes, as sometimes observed with z-drugs. Despite otherwise good tolerability, the use of melatoninergic drugs in children, adolescents, and during pregnancy has been a matter of concern, and should be avoided in autoimmune diseases and Parkinsonism. Problems and limits of melatoninergic hypnotics are compared.
PMCID: PMC2699659  PMID: 19557144
agomelatine; hypnotics; melatonin; prolonged-release; ramelteon; tasimelteon
9.  Melatonin, a potent agent in antioxidative defense: Actions as a natural food constituent, gastrointestinal factor, drug and prodrug 
Melatonin, originally discovered as a hormone of the pineal gland, is also produced in other organs and represents, additionally, a normal food constituent found in yeast and plant material, which can influence the level in the circulation. Compared to the pineal, the gastrointestinal tract contains several hundred times more melatonin, which can be released into the blood in response to food intake and stimuli by nutrients, especially tryptophan. Apart from its use as a commercial food additive, supraphysiological doses have been applied in medical trials and pure preparations are well tolerated by patients. Owing to its amphiphilicity, melatonin can enter any body fluid, cell or cell compartment. Its properties as an antioxidant agent are based on several, highly diverse effects. Apart from direct radical scavenging, it plays a role in upregulation of antioxidant and downregulation of prooxidant enzymes, and damage by free radicals can be reduced by its antiexcitatory actions, and presumably by contributions to appropriate internal circadian phasing, and by its improvement of mitochondrial metabolism, in terms of avoiding electron leakage and enhancing complex I and complex IV activities. Melatonin was shown to potentiate effects of other antioxidants, such as ascorbate and Trolox. Under physiological conditions, direct radical scavenging may only contribute to a minor extent to overall radical detoxification, although melatonin can eliminate several of them in scavenger cascades and potentiates the efficacy of antioxidant vitamins. Melatonin oxidation seems rather important for the production of other biologically active metabolites such as N1-acetyl-N2-formyl-5-methoxykynuramine (AFMK) and N1-acetyl-5-methoxykynuramine (AMK), which have been shown to also dispose of protective properties. Thus, melatonin may be regarded as a prodrug, too. AMK interacts with reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, conveys protection to mitochondria, inhibits and downregulates cyclooxygenase 2.
doi:10.1186/1743-7075-2-22
PMCID: PMC1262766  PMID: 16153306

Results 1-9 (9)