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Carcinogenesis. 2013 May;34(5):1051-61. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgt025. Epub 2013 Jan 25.

Blockage of melatonin receptors impairs p53-mediated prevention of DNA damage accumulation.

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Molecular Chemoprevention Group, Molecular Medicine Area, Regina Elena National Cancer Institute, Rome 00144, Italy.


Melatonin has been known to be a chemopreventive agent since its levels inversely correlate with the risk of developing cancer. We have recently shown that melatonin induces p38-dependent phosphorylation of both p53 and histone H2AX. This is associated with a p53-mediated increase in repair of both endogenous and chemotherapy-induced DNA damage. In addition, the inhibition of p38 activities impairs melatonin's capability to induce a p53-dependent DNA damage response and thus its ability to maintain genome integrity. Since melatonin-induced p53 phosphorylation requires an intact p38 phosphorylation cascade and p38 can be activated by G proteins, we supposed that melatonin's activities could be mediated by its G-protein-coupled membrane receptors, MT1 and MT2. Here, we show that the activation of the p53-dependent DNA damage response by melatonin is indeed mediated by MT1 and MT2. As a result, the absence of either receptor impairs melatonin's ability to reduce both cell proliferation and clonogenic potential of cancer cells. In addition, this causes an impairment of the p53-dependent DNA damage response. By providing molecular insight, our findings might have translational impact, suggesting the involvement of melatonin receptors in tumorigenesis.

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