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Melatonin: Pharmacology, Functions and Therapeutic Benefits

[ Vol. 15 , Issue. 3 ]


Sylvie Tordjman, Sylvie Chokron, Richard Delorme, Annaelle Charrier, Eric Bellissant, Nemat Jaafari and Claire Fougerou   Pages 434 - 443 ( 10 )


Background: Melatonin synchronizes central but also peripheral oscillators (fetal adrenal gland, pancreas, liver, kidney, heart, lung, fat, gut, etc.), allowing temporal organization of biological functions through circadian rhythms (24-hour cycles) in relation to periodic environmental changes and therefore adaptation of the individual to his/her internal and external environment. Measures of melatonin are considered the best peripheral indices of human circadian timing based on an internal 24-hour clock.

Methods: First, the pharmacology of melatonin (biosynthesis and circadian rhythms, pharmacokinetics and mechanisms of action) is described, allowing a better understanding of the short and long term effects of melatonin following its immediate or prolonged release. Then, research related to the physiological effects of melatonin is reviewed.

Results: The physiological effects of melatonin are various and include detoxification of free radicals and antioxidant actions, bone formation and protection, reproduction, and cardiovascular, immune or body mass regulation. Also, protective and therapeutic effects of melatonin are reported, especially with regard to brain or gastrointestinal protection, psychiatric disorders, cardiovascular diseases and oncostatic effects.

Conclusion: This review highlights the high number and diversity of major melatonin effects and opens important perspectives for measuring melatonin as a biomarker (biomarker of early identification of certain disorders and also biomarker of their follow-up) and using melatonin with clinical preventive and therapeutic applications in newborns, children and adults based on its physiological regulatory effects.


Adaptation to external and internal environment, biological clocks, biomarker, clinical application, central and peripheral oscillators, melatonin, prevention and treatment, sleep-wake rhythm, synchronizer.


Hospital-University Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Guillaume R├ęgnier Hospital, Rennes 1 University, Rennes 35000,, Laboratory of Psychology of Perception, CNRS UMR 8158, Paris 75270,, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department, Robert Debre Hospital, Paris 7 University, Paris 75019,, Hospital-University Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Guillaume Regnier Hospital, Rennes 1 University, Rennes 35000,, Inserm CIC 1414 Clinical Investigation Centre, University Hospital, Rennes 1 University, Rennes 35033,, Unite de recherche clinique Pierre Deniker du Centre Hospitalier Henri Laborit, INSERM CIC-P 1402, Poitiers 86022,, Department of Clinical Pharmacology, University Hospital, Rennes 1 University, Rennes 35033

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