Melatonin and its metabolites as copper chelating agents and their role in inhibiting oxidative stress: A physicochemical analysis

Annia Galano, Manuel E. Medina, Dun Xian Tan, Russel J. Reiter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

88 Scopus citations


The copper sequestering ability of melatonin and its metabolites cyclic 3-hydroxymelatonin (3OHM), N1-acetyl-N2-formyl-5-methoxykynuramine (AFMK), and N1-acetyl-5-methoxykynuramine (AMK) was investigated within the frame of the Density Functional Theory. It was demonstrated that these compounds are capable of chelating copper ions, yielding stable complexes. The most likely chelation sites were identified. Two different mechanisms were modeled, the direct-chelation mechanism (DCM) and the coupled-deprotonation-chelation mechanism (CDCM). It is proposed that, under physiological conditions, CDCM would be the main chelation route for Cu(II). It was found that melatonin and its metabolites fully inhibited the oxidative stress induced by Cu(II)-ascorbate mixtures, via Cu(II) chelation. In the same way, melatonin, AFMK, and 3OHM also prevented the first step of the Haber-Weiss reaction, consequently turning off the OH production via the Fenton reaction. Therefore, it is proposed that, in addition to the previously reported free radical scavenging cascade, melatonin is also involved in a concurrent 'chelating cascade', thereby contributing to a reduction in oxidative stress. 3OHM was identified as the most efficient of the studied compounds for that purpose, supporting the important role of this metabolite in the beneficial effects of melatonin against oxidative stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-116
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of pineal research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2015



  • 3OHM
  • AFMK
  • AMK
  • OH production
  • copper chelation
  • reaction mechanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology

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