Melatonin is a natural occurring compound with well-known antioxidant properties. Melatonin is ubiquitously distributed and because of its small size and amphiphilic nature, it is able to reach easily all cellular and subcellular compartments. The highest intracellular melatonin concentrations are found in mitochondria, raising the possibility of functional significance for this targeting with involvement in situ in mitochondrial activities. Mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, are considered to be the most important cellular organelles to contribute to degenerative processes mainly through respiratory chain dysfunction and formation of reactive oxygen species, leading to damage to mitochondrial proteins, lipids and DNA. Therefore, protecting mitochondria from oxidative damage could be an effective therapeutic strategy against cellular degenerative processes. Many of the beneficial effects of melatonin administration may depend on its effect on mitochondrial physiology. Cardiolipin, a phospholipid located at the level of inner mitochondrial membrane is known to be intimately involved in several mitochondrial bioenergetic processes as well as in mitochondrial-dependent steps of apoptosis. Alterations to cardiolipin structure, content and acyl chain composition have been associated with mitochondrial dysfunction in multiple tissues in several physiopathological situations and aging. Recently, melatonin was reported to protect the mitochondria from oxidative damage by preventing cardiolipin oxidation and this may explain, at least in part, the beneficial effect of this molecule in mitochondrial physiopathology. In this review, we discuss the role of melatonin in preventing mitochondrial dysfunction and disease.
- Mitochondrial physiopathology
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