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Reprod Nutr Dev. 1999 May-Jun;39(3):399-408.

Melatonin and 5-methoxytryptamine in non-metazoans.

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Institut für Zoologie und Anthropologie, Universität Göttingen, Germany.


Melatonin seems to be an almost ubiquitous substance, which has been detected not only in metazoans, but also in all major non-metazoan taxa investigated, including bacteria, dinoflagellates, euglenoids, trypanosomids, fungi, rhodophyceans, pheophyceans, chlorophyceans and angiosperms. Despite its vast abundance, little is known to date about its functions. Its presence is not necessarily associated with circadian rhythmicity, which is evident in yeast. Circadian rhythms of melatonin have been reported in non-metazoans only for several unicellular organisms and in one angiosperm. In dinoflagellates, which have been studied in the most detail, the effects on enzyme activities and on phase shifting are known, but the most spectacular actions concerning the stimulation of bioluminescence, changes in cytoplasmic pH and induction of resting stages, can be related to a metabolite of melatonin, the 5-methoxytryptamine; therefore, melatonin should also be considered as a source of other agonists.

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