Melatonin is mainly produced in the mammalian pineal gland during the dark phase. Its secretion from the pineal gland has been classically associated with circadian and circanual rhythm regulation. However, melatonin production is not confined exclusively to the pineal gland, but other tissues including retina, Harderian glands, gut, ovary, testes, bone marrow and lens also produce it. Several studies have shown that melatonin reduces chronic and acute inflammation. The immunomodulatory properties of melatonin are well known; it acts on the immune system by regulating cytokine production of immunocompetent cells. Experimental and clinical data showing that melatonin reduces adhesion molecules and pro-inflammatory cytokines and modifies serum inflammatory parameters. As a consequence, melatonin improves the clinical course of illnesses which have an inflammatory etiology. Moreover, experimental evidence supports its actions as a direct and indirect antioxidant, scavenging free radicals, stimulating antioxidant enzymes, enhancing the activities of other antioxidants or protecting other antioxidant enzymes from oxidative damage. Several encouraging clinical studies suggest that melatonin is a neuroprotective molecule in neurodegenerative disorders where brain oxidative damage has been implicated as a common link. In this review, the authors examine the effect of melatonin on several neurological diseases with inflammatory components, including dementia, Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and brain ischemia/reperfusion but also in traumatic CNS injuries (traumatic brain and spinal cord injury)
Melatonin, inflammation, neurodegeneration, mitochondria, antioxidant, free radical
Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine and Pharmacology, School of Medicine, University of Messina, Torre Biologica - Policlinico Universitario Via C. Valeria - Gazzi - 98100 Messina Italy.