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Melatonin and its Emerging Physiological Role in Reproduction: A Review and Update

[ Vol. 24 , Issue. 4 ]


Ruifeng Shao, Ying Wang, Chihua He and Ligang Chen*   Pages 449 - 456 ( 8 )


Melatonin is a neuroendocrine hormone secreted by the pineal gland. The secretion of melatonin follows a circadian rhythm controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus, and its secretion is synchronized with the changes in light and dark periods in nature, with the highest secretion level at night. Melatonin is a critical hormone that coordinates external light stimulation and cellular responses of the body. It transmits information about the environmental light cycle, including the circadian and seasonal rhythms, to the relevant tissues and organs in the body, which, along with changes in its secretion level, ensures that its regulated functional activities are adapted in response to changes in the outside environment. Melatonin takes beneficial actions mainly through the interaction with specific membrane-bound receptors, termed MT<sub>1</sub> and MT<sub>2</sub>. Melatonin also acts as a scavenger of free radicals <i>via</i> non-receptor-mediated mechanism. For more than half of acentury melatonin has been associated with vertebrate reproduction, especially in the context of seasonal breeding. Though modern humans show little remaining reproductive seasonality, the relationships between melatonin and human reproduction continue to attract extensive attention. Melatonin plays important roles in improving mitochondrial function, reducing the damage of free radicals, inducing oocyte maturation, increasing fertilization rate and promoting embryonic development, which improves the outcomes of in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer. The present article reviews the progress that has been made in our evolving understanding of the physiological role of melatonin in reproduction and its potential clinical applications in reproductive medicine.


Melatonin, reproduction, hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, tumor therapy, fertilization rate, neuroendocrine hormone.


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