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LE Magazine June 2007


Recent developments of melatonin related antioxidant compounds.

Melatonin is known for its radical scavenger activity, which is related to its ability to protect cells from different kinds of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been implicated in the development of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, epileptic seizures, stroke, and as a contributor to aging and some cancer types. The antioxidant properties of melatonin include scavenging free radicals and the regulation of the activity and expression of antioxidant and pro-oxidant enzymes. Due to its free radical scavenger and antioxidant properties, multiple melatonin-related compounds such as melatonin metabolites and synthetic analogues are under investigation to determine which exhibit the highest activity with the lowest side effects. This review addresses recent studies with melatonin and related compounds.

Comb Chem High Throughput Screen. 2006 Jul;9(6):409-19

Clinical perspectives for the use of melatonin as a chronobiotic and cytoprotective agent.

The circadian time system involves periodic gene expression at the cellular level, synchronized by a hierarchically superior structure located in the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nuclei. Treatment of circadian rhythm disorders has led to the development of a new type of agent called “chronobiotics,” among which melatonin is the prototype. In elderly insomniacs, melatonin treatment decreased sleep latency and increased sleep efficiency, particularly slow-wave sleep. The effect of melatonin on sleep is the consequence of increasing sleep propensity (by augmenting the amplitude of circadian clock oscillation via MT1 receptors) and of synchronizing the circadian clock via MT2 receptors. Daily melatonin production decreases with age and in several pathologies, attaining its lowest values in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients. About 45% of AD patients have disruptions in their sleep and “sundowning” agitation. Generally, melatonin treatment decreases sundowning in AD patients and reduced variability of sleep onset time. Both open and controlled studies have indicated a significant decrease of cognitive deterioration in AD patients treated with melatonin. The mechanisms accounting for the possible therapeutic effect of melatonin in AD patients may be manifold. On one hand, melatonin treatment promotes slow-wave sleep in the elderly and could be beneficial by augmenting the restorative phases of sleep. On the other hand, melatonin protects neurons against beta-amyloid toxicity. By its combined chronobiotic and cytoprotective properties melatonin provides an innovative neuroprotective strategy to reduce the cost of lifetime treatment of some neuropsychiatric disorders.

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Dec;1057:327-36.

Melatonin in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

ABSTRACT: Increased oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction have been identified as common pathophysiological phenomena associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Huntington’s disease (HD). As the age-related decline in the production of melatonin may contribute to increased levels of oxidative stress in the elderly, the role of this neuroprotective agent is attracting increasing attention. Melatonin has multiple actions as a regulator of antioxidant and prooxidant enzymes, radical scavenger and antagonist of mitochondrial radical formation. The ability of melatonin and its kynuramine metabolites to interact directly with the electron transport chain by increasing the electron flow and reducing electron leakage are unique features by which melatonin is able to increase the survival of neurons under enhanced oxidative stress. Moreover, antifibrillogenic actions have been demonstrated in vitro, also in the presence of profibrillogenic apoE4 or apoE3, and in vivo, in a transgenic mouse model. Amyloid-beta toxicity is antagonized by melatonin and one of its kynuramine metabolites. Cytoskeletal disorganization and protein hyperphosphorylation, as induced in several cell-line models, have been attenuated by melatonin, effects comprising stress kinase downregulation and extending to neurotrophin expression. Various experimental models of AD, PD and HD indicate the usefulness of melatonin in antagonizing disease progression and/or mitigating some of the symptoms. Melatonin secretion has been found to be altered in AD and PD. Attempts to compensate for age- and disease-dependent melatonin deficiency have shown that administration of this compound can improve sleep efficiency in AD and PD and, to some extent, cognitive function in AD patients. Exogenous melatonin has also been reported to alleviate behavioral symptoms such as sundowning. Taken together, these findings suggest that melatonin, its analogues and kynuric metabolites may have potential value in prevention and treatment of AD and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Behav Brain Funct. 2006 May 4;2(1):15

Estrogen-signaling pathway: a link between breast cancer and melatonin oncostatic actions.

BACKGROUND: Melatonin exerts oncostatic effects on different kinds of tumors, especially on endocrine-responsive breast cancer. The most common conclusion is that melatonin reduces the incidence and growth of chemically induced mammary tumors, in vivo, and inhibits the proliferation and metastatic behavior of human breast cancer cells, in vitro. Both studies support the hypothesis that melatonin oncostatic actions on hormone-dependent mammary tumors are mainly based on its anti-estrogenic actions. METHODS AND RESULTS: Two different mechanisms have been proposed to explain how melatonin reduces the development of breast cancer throughout its interactions with the estrogen-signaling pathways: (a) the indirect neuroendocrine mechanism which includes the melatonin down-regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary reproductive axis and the consequent reduction of circulating levels of gonadal estrogens and (b) direct melatonin actions at tumor cell level. Melatonin’s direct effect on mammary tumor cells is that it interferes with the activation of the estrogen receptor, thus behaving as a selective estrogen receptor modulator. Melatonin also regulates the activity of the aromatases, the enzymes responsible for the local synthesis of estrogens, thus behaving as a selective estrogen enzyme modulator. CONCLUSIONS: The same molecule has both properties to selectively neutralize the effects of estrogens on the breast and the local biosynthesis of estrogens from androgens, one of the main objectives of recent antitumor pharmacological therapeutic strategies. It is these action mechanisms that collectively make melatonin an interesting anticancer drug in the prevention and treatment of estrogen-dependent tumors, since it has the advantage of acting at different levels of the estrogen-signaling pathways.

Cancer Detect Prev. 2006;30(2):118-28

Melatonin in the treatment of cancer: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials and meta-analysis.

Most observational studies show an association between melatonin and cancer in humans. We conducted a systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of melatonin in solid tumor cancer patients and its effect on survival at 1 yr. With the aid of an information specialist, we searched 10 electronic databases from inception to October 2004. We included trials using melatonin as either sole treatment or as adjunct treatment. Prespecified criteria guided our assessment of trial quality. We conducted a meta-analysis using a random effects model. We included 10 RCTs published between 1992 and 2003 and included 643 patients. All trials included solid tumor cancers. All trials were conducted at the same hospital network, and were unblinded. Melatonin reduced the risk of death at 1 yr (relative risk: 0.66, 95% confidence interval: 0.59-0.73, I2=0%, heterogeneity P<or=0.56). Effects were consistent across melatonin dose, and type of cancer. No severe adverse events were reported. The substantial reduction in risk of death, low adverse events reported and low costs related to this intervention suggest great potential for melatonin in treating cancer. Confirming the efficacy and safety of melatonin in cancer treatment will require completion of blinded, independently conducted RCTs.

J Pineal Res. 2005 Nov;39(4):360-6

Melatonin-estrogen interactions in breast cancer.

In this article, we review the experimental data supporting an oncostatic role of melatonin on hormone-dependent mammary tumors. Beginning with the evidence on the role of estrogens in breast cancer etiology and mammary tumor growth, we summarize the actual therapeutic strategies with estrogens as a target. Additionally, we demonstrate that melatonin fulfills all the requirements to be considered as an antiestrogenic drug which shares properties with drugs of the two main pharmacological groups of substances which interact with the estrogen-signaling pathways such as: (i) drugs that act through the estrogen receptor interfering with the effects of endogenous estrogens; and (ii) drugs that interfere with the synthesis of estrogens by inhibiting the enzymes controlling the interconversion from their androgenic precursors. Furthermore, melatonin decreases circulating levels of estradiol. These three antiestrogenic mechanisms suggest that melatonin may have an important role in the prevention and treatment of hormone-dependent mammary cancer.

J Pineal Res. 2005 May;38(4):217-22

Effects of exogenous melatonin on sleep: a meta-analysis.

Exogenous melatonin reportedly induces drowsiness and sleep, and may ameliorate sleep disturbances, including the nocturnal awakenings associated with old age. However, existing studies on the soporific efficacy of melatonin have been highly heterogeneous in regard to inclusion and exclusion criteria, measures to evaluate insomnia, doses of the medication, and routes of administration. We reviewed and analyzed (by meta-analysis) available information on effects of exogenous melatonin on sleep. A MEDLINE search (1980 to December 2003) provided English-language articles, supplemented by personal files maintained by the authors. The analysis used information derived from 17 different studies (involving 284 subjects) that satisfied inclusion criteria. Sleep onset latency, total sleep duration, and sleep efficiency were selected as the outcome measures. The study effect size was taken to be the difference between the response on placebo and the mean response on melatonin for each outcome measured. Melatonin treatment significantly reduced sleep onset latency by 4.0 min (95% CI 2.5, 5.4); increased sleep efficiency by 2.2% (95% CI 0.2, 4.2), and increased total sleep duration by 12.8 min (95% CI 2.9, 22.8). Since 15 of the 17 studies enrolled healthy subjects or people with no relevant medical condition other than insomnia, the analysis was also done including only these 15 studies. The sleep onset results were changed to 3.9 min (95% CI (2.5, 5.4)); sleep efficiency increased to 3.1% (95% CI (0.7, 5.5)); sleep duration increased to 13.7 min (95% CI (3.1, 24.3)).

Sleep Med Rev. 2005 Feb;9(1):41-50

Melatonin pharmacotherapy for nocturia in men with benign prostatic enlargement.

PURPOSE: Nocturia is a common condition often attributed in aging men to benign prostatic enlargement. Older adults are prone to nocturnal sleep disturbance, of which disturbed circadian rhythm may be a component since it improves with nighttime administration of melatonin. This study was designed to investigate melatonin as a potential treatment for nocturia associated with bladder outflow obstruction in older men. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A total of 20 men with urodynamically confirmed bladder outflow obstruction and nocturia were entered into a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled crossover study assessing the effect of 2 mg controlled release melatonin at night on nocturia. Symptoms were assessed at baseline and after each 4-week treatment period using a frequency volume chart, the International Prostate Symptom Score and symptom problem index. Maximum urinary flow rate and post-void residual urine volume were also assessed. RESULTS: Baseline frequency of nocturia was 3.1 episodes per night. There were 7 men (35%) with detrusor overactivity and 10 (50%) had nocturnal polyuria. Melatonin and placebo caused a decrease in nocturia of 0.32 and 0.05 episodes per night (p = 0.07) and a decrease in the nocturia bother score of 0.51 and 0.05, respectively (p = 0.008). Nocturia responder rates (a reduction from baseline of at least -0.5 episodes per night) differed between the active medication and placebo groups (p = 0.04). Daytime urinary frequency, International Prostate Symptom Score, relative nocturnal urine volume, maximum urinary flow rate and post-void residual were unaffected by melatonin treatment. CONCLUSIONS: Melatonin treatment is associated with a significant nocturia response rate, improvement in nocturia related bother and a good adverse effect profile. However, it is uncertain whether the observed changes in this study are clinically significant.

J Urol. 2004 Mar;171(3):1199-202

Prolonged melatonin admini-stration decreases nocturnal blood pressure in women.

BACKGROUND: The nocturnal decline of blood pressure (BP) is almost coincident with the elevation of melatonin, which may exert vasodilatating and hypotensive effects. In this study we investigated whether prolonged nocturnal administration of melatonin could influence the daily rhythm of BP in women. METHODS: In a randomized double-blind study, 18 women, 47 to 63 years of age and with normal BP (N = 9) or treated essential hypertension (N = 9), received a 3-week course of a slow-release melatonin pill (3 mg) or placebo 1 h before going to bed. They were then crossed over to the other treatment for another 3 weeks. In each woman ambulatory BP was recorded for 41 h at baseline at the end of each treatment period. RESULTS: In comparison with placebo, melatonin administration did not influence diurnal BP but did significantly decrease nocturnal systolic (-3.77 +/- 1.7 mm Hg, P = .0423), diastolic (-3.63 +/- 1.3 mm Hg, P = .0153), and mean (-3.71 +/- 1.3 mm Hg, P = .013) BP without modifying heart rate. The effect was inversely related to the day-night difference in BP. CONCLUSION: These data indicate that prolonged administration of melatonin may improve the day-night rhythm of BP, particularly in women with a blunted nocturnal decline.

Am J Hypertens. 2005 Dec;18(12 Pt 1):1614-8

Daily nighttime melatonin reduces blood pressure in male patients with essential hypertension.

Patients with essential hypertension have disturbed autonomic cardiovascular regulation and circadian pacemaker function. Recently, the biological clock was shown to be involved in autonomic cardiovascular regulation. Our objective was to determine whether enhancement of the functioning of the biological clock by repeated nighttime melatonin intake might reduce ambulatory blood pressure in patients with essential hypertension. We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial in 16 men with untreated essential hypertension to investigate the influence of acute (single) and repeated (daily for 3 weeks) oral melatonin (2.5 mg) intake 1 hour before sleep on 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure and actigraphic estimates of sleep quality. Repeated melatonin intake reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure during sleep by 6 and 4 mm Hg, respectively. The treatment did not affect heart rate. The day-night amplitudes of the rhythms in systolic and diastolic blood pressures were increased by 15% and 25%, respectively. A single dose of melatonin had no effect on blood pressure. Repeated (but not acute) melatonin also improved sleep. Improvements in blood pressure and sleep were statistically unrelated. In patients with essential hypertension, repeated bedtime melatonin intake significantly reduced nocturnal blood pressure. Future studies in larger patient group should be performed to define the characteristics of the patients who would benefit most from melatonin intake. The present study suggests that support of circadian pacemaker function may provide a new strategy in the treatment of essential hypertension.

Hypertension. 2004 Feb;43(2):192-7

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