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Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016;2016:6819736. Epub 2016 Sep 5.

Melatonin in Retinal Physiology and Pathology: The Case of Age-Related Macular Degeneration.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Lodz, Pomorska 141/143, 90-236 Lodz, Poland.
Department of Cellular & Structural Biology, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, TX 78229-3900, USA.
Department of Ophthalmology, University of Eastern Finland, 70211 Kuopio, Finland; Department of Ophthalmology, Kuopio University Hospital, 70029 Kuopio, Finland.


Melatonin, an indoleamine, is synthesized mainly in the pineal gland in a circadian fashion, but it is produced in many other organs, including the retina, which seems to be especially important as the eye is a primary recipient of circadian signals. Melatonin displays strong antioxidative properties, which predispose it to play a protective role in many human pathologies associated with oxidative stress, including premature aging and degenerative disease. Therefore, melatonin may play a role in age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease affecting photoreceptors, and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) with an established role of oxidative stress in its pathogenesis. Several studies have shown that melatonin could exert the protective effect against damage to RPE cells evoked by reactive oxygen species (ROS), but it has also been reported to increase ROS-induced damage to photoreceptors and RPE. Melatonin behaves like synthetic mitochondria-targeted antioxidants, which concentrate in mitochondria at relatively high levels; thus, melatonin may prevent mitochondrial damage in AMD. The retina contains telomerase, an enzyme implicated in maintaining the length of telomeres, and oxidative stress inhibits telomere synthesis, while melatonin overcomes this effect. These features support considering melatonin as a preventive and therapeutic agent in the treatment of AMD.

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