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Chronobiol Int. 2013 Nov;30(9):1077-88. doi: 10.3109/07420528.2013.800088. Epub 2013 Jul 23.

Melatonin treatment entrains the rest-activity circadian rhythm in rats with chronic inflammation.

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  • 1Pain Pharmacology and Neuromodulation: Animals Models Laboratory, Department of Pharmacology, Instituto de Ciências Básicas da Saúde, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul , Porto Alegre , Brazil .


We assessed the therapeutic effect of exogenous melatonin (MEL), dexamethasone (DEXA), and a combination of both on nociceptive response induced by chronic inflammation and on the rest-activity circadian rhythm in rats. A total of 64 animals were randomly divided into eight groups of eight rats each: one control group and seven groups with complete Freund's adjuvant-inflamed animals (CFA; injection into the footpad). One of the CFA-inflamed groups did not receive any treatment; the other six were treated with melatonin (MEL), dexamethasone (DEXA), melatonin plus dexamethasone (MELDEXA), and their respective vehicles. Fifteen days after CFA injection, animals were treated with intraperitoneal injection of MEL (50 mg/kg) or its vehicle (8% ethanol in saline), DEXA (0.25 mg/kg) or its vehicle (saline), and MEL plus DEXA or their vehicles, for 8 days. The von Frey test was performed 24 h after the last administration of each treatment regimen. Hind paw thickness was measured using a pachymeter during the treatment days. The degree of swelling and histological findings were analyzed. All treated groups significantly reduced the severity of inflammation when compared with their vehicles (repeated-measures analysis of variance [ANOVA], p < 0.05 for all analyses). Inflamed animals treated with dexamethasone alone or associated with melatonin showed marked inhibition of histological findings. On the other hand, the group treated with melatonin remained with moderate inflammation. The CFA group showed a decrease in the mean rest-activity circadian rhythm, determined by the number of touch-detections per hour during water intake in comparison with the control group; only the group treated with melatonin showed a synchronized rest-activity rhythm. At the end of treatment, a significant increase was observed in hind paw withdrawal threshold on the von Frey test in the treated groups (one-way ANOVA, p < 0.05 for all). Our findings showed that melatonin (50 mg/kg) has strong chronobiotic and antinociceptive effects, but only mild anti-inflammatory effects. This evidence supports the hypothesis that melatonin can induce phase advance and circadian rhythm synchronization in rats with chronic inflammation.

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