Melatonin and mitochondrial function

Josefa Leon, Dario Acuña-Castroviejo, Rosa M. Sainz, Juan C. Mayo, Dun Xian Tan, Russel J. Reiter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

295 Scopus citations


Melatonin is a natural occurring compound with well-known antioxidant properties. In the last decade a new effect of melatonin on mitochondrial homeostasis has been discovered and, although the exact molecular mechanism for this effect remains unknown, it may explain, at least in part, the protective properties found for the indoleamine in degenerative conditions such as aging as well as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, sepsis and other injuries such as ischemia-reperfusion. A common feature in these diseases is the existence of mitochondrial damage due to oxidative stress, which may lead to a decrease in the activities of mitochondrial complexes and ATP production, and, as a consequence, a further increase in free radical generation. A vicious cycle thus results under these conditions of oxidative stress with the final consequence being cell death by necrosis or apoptosis. Melatonin is able of directly scavenging a variety of toxic oxygen and nitrogen-based reactants, stimulates antioxidative enzymes, increases the efficiency of the electron transport chain thereby limiting electron leakage and free radical generation, and promotes ATP synthesis. Via these actions, melatonin preserves the integrity of the mitochondria and helps to maintain cell functions and survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)765-790
Number of pages26
JournalLife Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2 2004


  • Aging
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Ischemia-reperfusion
  • Melatonin
  • Mitochondria
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Reactive nitrogen species
  • Reactive oxygen species
  • Sepsis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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