Melatonin, also known as N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine, is a ubiquitously acting molecule that is produced by the pineal gland and other organs of animals, including humans. As melatonin and its metabolites are potent antioxidants and free radical scavengers, they are protective against a variety of disorders. Moreover, multiple molecular targets of melatonin have been identified, and its actions are both receptor-mediated and receptor-independent. Recent studies have shown that melatonin may be useful in fighting against sepsis and septic injury due to its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory actions; the results generally indicate a promising therapeutic application for melatonin in the treatment of sepsis. To provide a comprehensive understanding regarding the protective effects of melatonin against septic injury, in the present review we have evaluated the published literature in which melatonin has been used to treat experimental and clinical sepsis. Firstly, we present the evidence from studies that have used melatonin to resist bacterial pathogens. Secondly, we illustrate the protective effect of melatonin against septic injury and discuss the possible mechanisms. Finally, the potential directions for future melatonin research against sepsis are summarized.
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