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J Photochem Photobiol B. 2010 Feb 12;98(2):107-17. doi: 10.1016/j.jphotobiol.2009.11.014. Epub 2009 Dec 5.

Photoimmunomodulation and melatonin.

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Pineal Research Lab., Department of Zoology, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi 221 005, India.


The seasons, and daily physical rhythms can have a profound effect on the physiology of the living organism, which includes immune status. The immune system can be influenced by a variety of signals and one of them is photic stimulus. Light may regulate the immunity through the neuroendocrine system leading to the most recent branch of research the "Photoimmunomodulation". Mammals perceive visible light (400-700 nm) through some specialized photoreceptors located in retina like retinal ganglion cells (RGC). This photic signal is then delivered to the visual cortex from there to the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamic region. Melatonin--one of the universally accepted chronobiotic molecule secreted by the pineal gland is now emerging as one of the most effective immunostimulatory compound in rodents and as oncostatic molecule at least in human. Its synthesis decreases with light activation along with norepinephrine and acetylcholine. The changes in level of melatonin may lead to alterations (stimulatory/inhibitory) in immune system. The evidences for the presence of melatonin receptor subtypes on lymphoid tissues heralded the research area about mechanism of action for melatonin. Further, melatonin receptor subtypes-MT1 and MT2 was noted on pars tuberalis, SCN and on lymphatic tissues suggesting a direct action of melatonin in modulation of immunity by photoperiod as well. The nuclear receptors (ROR, RZR etc.) of melatonin are known for its free radical scavenging actions and might be indirectly controlling the immune function.

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