Melatonin: Regulation of biomolecular condensates in neurodegenerative disorders

Doris Loh, Russel J. Reiter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Biomolecular condensates are membraneless organelles (MLOs) that form dynamic, chemically distinct subcellular compartments organizing macromolecules such as proteins, RNA, and DNA in unicellular prokaryotic bacteria and complex eukaryotic cells. Separated from surrounding environments, MLOs in the nucleoplasm, cytoplasm, and mitochondria assemble by liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) into transient, non-static, liquid-like droplets that regulate essential molecular functions. LLPS is primarily controlled by post-translational modifications (PTMs) that fine-tune the balance between attractive and repulsive charge states and/or binding motifs of proteins. Aberrant phase separation due to dysregulated membrane lipid rafts and/or PTMs, as well as the absence of adequate hydrotropic small molecules such as ATP, or the presence of specific RNA proteins can cause pathological protein aggregation in neurodegenerative disorders. Melatonin may exert a dominant influence over phase separation in biomolecular condensates by optimizing membrane and MLO interdependent reactions through stabilizing lipid raft domains, reducing line tension, and maintaining negative membrane curvature and fluidity. As a potent antioxidant, melatonin protects cardiolipin and other membrane lipids from peroxidation cascades, supporting protein trafficking, signaling, ion channel activities, and ATPase functionality during condensate coacervation or dissolution. Melatonin may even control condensate LLPS through PTM and balance mRNA- and RNA-binding protein composition by regulating N6-methyladenosine (m6A) modifications. There is currently a lack of pharmaceuticals targeting neurodegenerative disorders via the regulation of phase separation. The potential of melatonin in the modulation of biomolecular condensate in the attenuation of aberrant condensate aggregation in neurodegenerative disorders is discussed in this review.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1483
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • ATP
  • Biomolecular condensate
  • Lipid raft
  • Liquid-liquid phase separation
  • Melatonin
  • Neurodegenerative disorder
  • Post-translational modification
  • RNA
  • mA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Molecular Biology
  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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