Role of melatonin in controlling angiogenesis under physiological and pathological conditions

Qiang Ma, Russel J. Reiter, Yundai Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Angiogenesis depends on proangiogenic and anti-angiogenic molecules that regulate endothelial cell proliferation and migration. Well-regulated angiogenesis plays a pivotal role in many physiological conditions such as reproduction and embryonic development, while abnormal angiogenesis is also the basis of a variety of pathological processes including tumor metastasis and atherosclerotic plaque formation. Melatonin has a variety of biological effects, including inhibition of tumor metastasis, stabilizing atherosclerotic plaques, and the regulation of seasonal reproductive rhythms, etc. During certain pathophysiological processes, melatonin exerts different functions depending on its ability to regulate angiogenesis. This review reveals that melatonin has different effects on neovascularization under different physiological and pathological conditions. In tumors, in age-related ocular diseases, and in a hypoxic environment, melatonin inhibits neovascularization in tissues, while in gastric ulcers, skin lesions, and some physiologic processes, it promotes angiogenesis. We also speculate that melatonin may inhibit the neovascularization in atherosclerotic plaques, thus preventing the initiation and development of atherosclerosis. Most studies suggest that these effects are related to the role of melatonin in regulating of vascular endothelial growth factor and its receptors, but the specific regulatory mechanisms remain disparate, which may lead to the differential effects of melatonin on angiogenesis under different conditions. In this review, we thus summarize some seemingly contradictory mechanisms by which melatonin controls angiogenesis under different pathological and physiological conditions, and urge that the regulatory mechanisms be further studied.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-104
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Angiogenesis
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha
  • Melatonin
  • Vascular endothelial growth factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cancer Research


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