Melatonin is a multifunctional signalling molecule that is secreted by the mammalian
pineal gland, and also found in a number of organisms including plants and bacteria. Research has
continued to uncover an ever-increasing number of processes in which melatonin is known to play
crucial roles in mammals. Amongst these functions is its contribution to cell multiplication, differentiation
and survival in the brain. Experimental studies show that melatonin can achieve these
functions by influencing transcription factors which control neuronal and glial gene expression.
Since neuronal survival and differentiation are processes that are important determinants of the
pathogenesis, course and outcome of neurodegenerative disorders; the known and potential influences
of melatonin on neuronal and glial transcription factors are worthy of constant examination.
In this review, relevant scientific literature on the role of melatonin in preventing or altering the
course and outcome of neurodegenerative disorders, by focusing on melatonin’s influence on transcription
factors is examined. A number of transcription factors whose functions can be influenced
by melatonin in neurodegenerative disease models have also been highlighted. Finally, the therapeutic
implications of melatonin’s influences have also been discussed and the potential limitations
to its applications have been highlighted.
Keywords: Melatonin, glial, neurons, gene expression, transcription factors, neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration.
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