Melatonin is an important neuroprotective factor and its receptors are expressed in the fetal brain. During
normal pregnancy, maternal melatonin level increases progressively until term and is highly transferred to the
fetus, with an important role in brain formation and differentiation. Maternal melatonin provides the first circadian
signal to the fetus. This indolamine is also produced de novo and plays a protective role in the human placenta. In
pregnancy disorders, both maternal and placental melatonin levels are decreased. Alteration in maternal melatonin
level has been associated with disrupted brain programming with long-term effects. Melatonin has strong antioxidant
protective effects directly and indirectly via the activation of its receptors. The fetal brain is highly susceptible
to oxygenation variation and oxidative stress that can lead to neuronal development disruption. Based on that, several
approaches have been tested as a treatment in case of pregnancy disorders and melatonin, through its neuroprotective
effect, has been recently accepted against fetal brain injury. This review provides an overview about the protective effects of
melatonin during pregnancy and on fetal brain development.
Keywords: Placenta, melatonin, preterm birth, neurogenesis disorders, neuroprotection, neural tube, fetus.
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