Melatonin has long been known for its apparent effects on sleep and circadian rhythm. It may participate as a possible therapeutic agent in neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, and endocrine disorders as well. Autophagy is a lysosomal degradation process that occurs in response to starvation and other stresses. Recent studies have reported that melatonin may modulate the autophagy process. We reviewed the current literature that has reported on how different diseases and/or experimental models change autophagy parameters. We also discussed the effect of melatonin on autophagy parameters in the central nervous, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and endocrine systems as reported in nonclinical studies. Moreover, the molecular targets for melatonin are discussed in details. In summary, melatonin has been reported to enhance significant protective effects in different in vitro and in vivo studies either through enhancement or inhibition of the autophagy process. Melatonin holds promise in the treatment of several major diseases. Regulation of autophagy by melatonin is a determinant parameter that should be considered in the future studies.
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