Maternal pineal melatonin in gestation and lactation physiology, and in fetal development and programming

Patrícia Rodrigues Lourenço Gomes, Lívia Clemente Motta-Teixeira, Camila Congentino Gallo, Daniella do Carmo Buonfiglio, Ludmilla Scodeler de Camargo, Telma Quintela, Russel J. Reiter, Fernanda Gaspar do Amaral, José Cipolla-Neto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Pregnancy and lactation are reproductive processes that rely on physiological adaptations that should be timely and adequately triggered to guarantee both maternal and fetal health. Pineal melatonin is a hormone that presents daily and seasonal variations that synchronizes the organism's physiology to the different demands across time through its specific mechanisms and ways of action. The reproductive system is a notable target for melatonin as it actively participates on reproductive physiology and regulates the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonads axis, influencing gonadotropins and sexual hormones synthesis and release. For its antioxidant properties, melatonin is also vital for the oocytes and spermatozoa quality and viability, and for blastocyst development. Maternal pineal melatonin blood levels increase during pregnancy and triggers the maternal physiological alterations in energy metabolism both during pregnancy and lactation to cope with the energy demands of both periods and to promote adequate mammary gland development. Moreover, maternal melatonin freely crosses the placenta and is the only source of this hormone to the fetus. It importantly times the conceptus physiology and influences its development and programing of several functions that depend on neural and brain development, ultimately priming adult behavior and energy and glucose metabolism. The present review aims to explain the above listed melatonin functions, including the potential alterations observed in the progeny gestated under maternal chronodisruption and/or hypomelatoninemia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113633
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Fetal programming
  • Gametes
  • Lactation
  • Melatonin
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology


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