Life Extension Magazine

Life Extension Magazine September 2012



By Life Extension

Role of melatonin in metabolic regulation.

Although the human genome has remained unchanged over the last 10,000 years, our lifestyle has become progressively more divergent from those of our ancient ancestors. This maladaptive change became apparent with the Industrial Revolution and has been accelerating in recent decades. Socially, we are people of the 21st century, but genetically we remain similar to our early ancestors. In conjunction with this discordance between our ancient, genetically-determined biology and the nutritional, cultural and activity patterns in contemporary Western populations, many diseases have emerged. Only a century ago infectious disease was a major cause of mortality, whereas today non-infectious chronic diseases are the greatest cause of death in the world. Epidemics of metabolic diseases (e.g., cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome and certain cancers) have become major contributors to the burden of poor health and they are presently emerging or accelerating, in most developing countries. One major lifestyle consequence is light at night and subsequent disrupted circadian rhythms commonly referred to as circadian disruption or chronodisruption. Mounting evidence reveals that particularly melatonin rhythmicity has crucial roles in a variety of metabolic functions as an anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory chronobiotic and possibly as an epigenetic regulator. This paper provides a brief outline about metabolic dysregulation in conjunction with a disrupted melatonin rhythm.

Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2009 Dec;10(4):261-70

Melatonin combats molecular terrorism at the mitochondrial level.

The intracellular environmental is a hostile one. Free radicals and related oxygen and nitrogen-based oxidizing agents persistently pulverize and damage molecules in the vicinity of where they are formed. The mitochondria especially are subjected to frequent and abundant oxidative abuse. The carnage that is left in the wake of these oxygen and nitrogen-related reactants is referred to as oxidative damage or oxidative stress. When mitochondrial electron transport complex inhibitors are used, e.g., rotenone, 1-methyl-1-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine, 3-nitropropionic acid or cyanide, pandemonium breaks loose within mitochondria as electron leakage leads to the generation of massive amounts of free radicals and related toxicants. The resulting oxidative stress initiates a series of events that leads to cellular apoptosis. To alleviate mitochondrial destruction and the associated cellular implosion, the cell has at its disposal a variety of free radical scavengers and antioxidants. Among these are melatonin and its metabolites. While melatonin stimulates several antioxidative enzymes it, as well as its metabolites (cyclic 3-hydroxymelatonin, N(1)-acetyl-N(2)-formyl-5-methoxykynuramine and N(1)-acetyl-5-methoxykynu-ramine), likewise effectively neutralize free radicals. The resulting cascade of reactions greatly magnifies melatonin's efficacy in reducing oxidative stress and apoptosis even in the presence of mitochondrial electron transport inhibitors. The actions of melatonin at the mitochondrial level are a consequence of melatonin and/or any of its metabolites. Thus, the molecular terrorism meted out by reactive oxygen and nitrogen species is held in check by melatonin and its derivatives.

Interdiscip Toxicol. 2008 Sep;1(2):137-49

Therapeutic actions of melatonin in cancer: possible mechanisms.

Melatonin is a phylogenetically well-preserved molecule with diverse physiological functions. In addition to its well-known regulatory control of the sleep/wake cycle, as well as circadian rhythms generally, melatonin is involved in immunomodulation, hematopoiesis, and antioxidative processes. Recent human and animal studies have now shown that melatonin also has important oncostatic properties. Both at physiological and pharmacological doses melatonin exerts growth inhibitory effects on breast cancer cell lines. In hepatomas, through its activation of MT1 and MT2 receptors, melatonin inhibits linoleic acid uptake, thereby preventing the formation of the mitogenic metabolite 1,3-hydroxyoctadecadienoic acid. In animal model studies, melatonin has been shown to have preventative action against nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA)-induced liver cancer. Melatonin also inhibits the growth of prostate tumors via activation of MT1 receptors thereby inducing translocation of the androgen receptor to the cytoplasm and inhibition of the effect of endogenous androgens. There is abundant evidence indicating that melatonin is involved in preventing tumor initiation, promotion, and progression. The anticarcinogenic effect of melatonin on neoplastic cells relies on its antioxidant, immunostimulating, and apoptotic properties. Melatonin's oncostatic actions include the direct augmentation of natural killer (NK) cell activity, which increases immunosurveillance, as well as the stimulation of cytokine production, for example, of interleukin (IL)-2, IL-6, IL-12, and interferon (IFN)-gamma. In addition to its direct oncostatic action, melatonin protects hematopoietic precursors from the toxic effect of anticancer chemotherapeutic drugs. Melatonin secretion is impaired in patients suffering from breast cancer, endometrial cancer, or colorectal cancer. The increased incidence of breast cancer and colorectal cancer seen in nurses and other night shift workers suggests a possible link between diminished secretion of melatonin and increased exposure to light during nighttime. The physiological surge of melatonin at night is thus considered a "natural restraint" on tumor initiation, promotion, and progression.

Integr Cancer Ther. 2008 Sep;7(3):189-203

Anti-angiogenic activity of melatonin in advanced cancer patients.

OBJECTIVES: The anticancer activity of the indole melatonin has been explained to be due to its immunomodulatory, anti-prolferative and anti-oxidant effects, whereas at present no data are available about its possible influence on the angiogenesis, which has been shown to be one of the main biological mechanisms responsible for tumor dissemination. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is the most active angiogenic factor, and the evidence of abnormally high blood levels or VEGF has been proven to be associated with poor prognosis in cancer patients. To investigate the influence of melatonin on angiogenesis, in this preliminary study we have evaluated the effects of melatonin therapy on VEGF blood levels in advanced cancer patients. MATERIAL & METHODS: The study included 20 metastatic patients, who progressed on previous conventional antitumor therapies and for whom no other effective treatment was available. Melatonin was given orally at 20 mg/day in the evening for at least 2 months. Serum levels of VEGF were measured by an enzyme immunoassay on venous blood samples collected at 15-day intervals. RESULTS: The clinical response consisted of minor response (MR) in 2, stable disease (SD) in 6 and progressive disease (PD) in the remaining 12 patients. VEGF mean levels decreased on therapy, without, however, statistical differences with respect to the pre-treatment values. In contrast, by evaluating changes in VEGF levels in relation to the clinical response, non-progressing patients (MR + SD) showed a significant decline in VEGF mean concentrations, whereas no effect was achieved in progressing patients. CONCLUSIONS: This study, by showing that melatonin-induced control or the neoplastic growth is associated with a decline in VEGF secretion, would suggest that the pineal hormone may control tumor growth at least in part by acting as a natural anti-angiogenic molecule, with a following opposition or angiogenesis-dependent cancer proliferation.

Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2001;22(1):45-7