Circadian disruption, melatonin rhythm perturbations and their contributions to chaotic physiology

Russel J. Reiter, Sergio Rosales-Corral, Ramaswamy Sharma

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The aim of this report is to summarize the data documenting the vital nature of well-regulated cellular and organismal circadian rhythms, which are also reflected in a stable melatonin cycle, in supporting optimal health. Cellular fluctuations in physiology exist in most cells of multicellular organisms with their stability relying on the prevailing light:dark cycle, since it regulates, via specialized intrinsically-photoreceptive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGC) and the retinohypothalamic tract, the master circadian oscillator, i.e., the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). The output message of the SCN, as determined by the light:dark cycle, is transferred to peripheral oscillators, so-called slave cellular oscillators, directly via the autonomic nervous system with its limited distribution. and indirectly via the pineal-derived circulating melatonin rhythm, which contacts every cell. Via its regulatory effects on the neuroendocrine system, particularly the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis, the SCN also has a major influence on the adrenal glucocorticoid rhythm which impacts neurological diseases and psychological behaviors. Moreover, the SCN regulates the circadian production and secretion of melatonin. When the central circadian oscillator is disturbed, such as by light at night, it passes misinformation to all organs in the body. When this occurs the physiology of cells becomes altered and normal cellular functions are compromised. This physiological upheaval is a precursor to pathologies. The deterioration of the SCN/pineal network is often a normal consequence of aging and its related diseases, but in today's societies where manufactured light is becoming progressively more common worldwide, the associated pathologies may also be occurring at an earlier age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)394-402
Number of pages9
JournalAdvances in medical sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Chronobiology
  • Circadian system
  • Pineal gland
  • SCN/Pineal axis
  • Suprachiasmatic nuclei

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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