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Sleep Med Rev. 2005 Feb;9(1):11-24.

The basic physiology and pathophysiology of melatonin.

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1
Centre de Médecine Nucléaire, Service de Radioanalyse, Hôpital Neuro-Cardiologique, 59 Boulevard Pinel, 69394 Lyon Cedex 03, France. bruno.claustrat@chu-lyon.fr

Abstract

Melatonin is a methoxyindole synthesized and secreted principally by the pineal gland at night under normal environmental conditions. The endogenous rhythm of secretion is generated by the suprachiasmatic nuclei and entrained to the light/dark cycle. Light is able to either suppress or synchronize melatonin production according to the light schedule. The nycthohemeral rhythm of this hormone can be determined by repeated measurement of plasma or saliva melatonin or urine sulfatoxymelatonin, the main hepatic metabolite. The primary physiological function of melatonin, whose secretion adjusts to night length, is to convey information concerning the daily cycle of light and darkness to body physiology. This information is used for the organisation of functions, which respond to changes in the photoperiod such as the seasonal rhythms. Seasonal rhythmicity of physiological functions in humans related to possible alteration of the melatonin message remains, however, of limited evidence in temperate areas in field conditions. Also, the daily melatonin secretion, which is a very robust biochemical signal of night, can be used for the organisation of circadian rhythms. Although functions of this hormone in humans are mainly based on correlative observations, there is some evidence that melatonin stabilises and strengthens coupling of circadian rhythms, especially of core temperature and sleep-wake rhythms. The circadian organisation of other physiological functions could depend on the melatonin signal, for instance immune, antioxidative defences, hemostasis and glucose regulation. Since the regulating system of melatonin secretion is complex, following central and autonomic pathways, there are many pathophysiological situations where the melatonin secretion can be disturbed. The resulting alteration could increase predisposition to disease, add to the severity of symptoms or modify the course and outcome of the disorder.

PMID:
15649735
DOI:
10.1016/j.smrv.2004.08.001
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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