Pharmacological utility of melatonin in the treatment of septic shock: Experimental and clinical evidence

Germaine Escames, Darío Acuña-Castroviejo, Luis Carlos López, Dun-Xian Tan, Maria Dolores Maldonado, Marina Sánchez-Hidalgo, Josefa León, Russel J. Reiter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Sepsis is a major cause of mortality in critically ill patients and develops as a result of the host response to infection. In recent years, important advances have been made in understanding the pathophysiology and treatment of sepsis. Mitochondria play a central role in the intracellular events associated with inflammation and septic shock. One of the current hypotheses for the molecular mechanisms of sepsis is that the enhanced nitric oxide (NO) production by mitochondrial nitric oxide synthase (mtNOS) leads to excessive peroxynitrite (ONOO-) production and protein nitration, impairing mitochondrial function. Despite the advances in understanding of its pathophysiology, therapy for septic shock remains largely symptomatic and supportive. Melatonin has well documented protective effects against the symptoms of severe sepsis/shock in both animals and in humans; its use for this condition significantly improves survival. Melatonin administration counteracts mtNOS induction and respiratory chain failure, restores cellular and mitochondrial redox status, and reduces proinflammatory cytokines. Melatonin clearly prevents multiple organ failure, circulatory failure, and mitochondrial damage in experimental sepsis, and reduces lipid peroxidation, indices of inflammation and mortality in septic human newborns. Considering these effects of melatonin and its virtual absence of toxicity, the use of melatonin (along with conventional therapy) to preserve mitochondrial bioenergetics as well as to limit inflammatory responses and oxidative damage should be seriously considered as a treatment option in both septic newborn and adult patients. This review summarizes the data that provides a rationale for using melatonin in septic shock patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1153-1165
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science


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