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J Pineal Res. 2009 May;46(4):357-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-079X.2009.00671.x. Epub 2009 Mar 25.

Melatonin improves placental efficiency and birth weight and increases the placental expression of antioxidant enzymes in undernourished pregnancy.

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Centre for Trophoblast Research, Department of Physiology, Development & Neuroscience, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.


Melatonin participates in circadian, seasonal and reproductive physiology. Melatonin also acts as a potent endogenous antioxidant by scavenging free radicals and upregulating antioxidant pathways. The placenta expresses melatonin receptors and melatonin protects against oxidative damage induced in rat placenta by ischemia-reperfusion. One of the most common complications in pregnancy is a reduction in fetal nutrient delivery, which is known to promote oxidative stress. However, whether melatonin protects placental function and fetal development in undernourished pregnancy is unknown. Here, we investigated the effects of maternal treatment with melatonin on placental efficiency, fetal growth, birth weight and protein expression of placental oxidative stress markers in undernourished pregnancy. On day 15 of pregnancy, rats were divided into control and undernourished pregnancy (35% reduction in food intake), with and without melatonin treatment (5 microg/mL drinking water). On day 20 of gestation, fetal biometry was carried out, the placenta was weighed and subsequently analyzed by Western blot for xanthine oxidase, heat shock protein (HSP) 27 and 70, catalase, manganese superoxide dismutase (Mn-SOD) and glutathione peroxidase 1 (GPx-1). A separate cohort was allowed to deliver to assess effects on birth weight. Maternal undernutrition led to a fall in placental efficiency, disproportionate intrauterine growth retardation and a reduction in birth weight. Maternal treatment with melatonin in undernourished pregnancy improved placental efficiency and restored birth weight, and it increased the expression of placental Mn-SOD and catalase. The data show that in pregnancy complicated by undernutrition, melatonin may improve placental efficiency and birth weight by upregulating placental antioxidant enzymes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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