Melatonin, the pineal neurohormone, is an evolutionarily conserved photoperiodic signaling molecule with diverse functions that include the entrainment of human circadian rhythms. Although evidence supporting a direct inhibitory action of melatonin on human cancer cell proliferation exists in the literature, the molecular and cellular signaling mechanisms involved are largely undefined. In our study, significant inhibition of human choriocarcinoma JAr cell proliferation at physiological and pharmacological concentrations of melatonin was observed. 2-Iodomelatonin, a high affinity melatonin receptor agonist, was more potent than melatonin in inhibiting JAr cell proliferation. In addition, the presence of putative melatonin receptors in choriocarcinoma was suggested by the demonstration of specific 2-[125I]iodomelatonin binding to the tumor. Interestingly, the selective MT2 melatonin receptor ligand, 4-phenyl-2-propionamidotetraline (4-P-PDOT), was found to exert not only concentration-dependent anti-proliferative actions on JAr cells, but also additive effects with melatonin in inhibiting JAr cell proliferation. Furthermore, MT2 melatonin receptor gene expression by JAr cells was demonstrated by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and in situ hybridization (ISH). Taken together, our data suggest that the reported anti-proliferative action of melatonin on human choriocarcinoma JAr cells may be mediated, in part, by MT2 melatonin receptor. Moreover, analysis of melatonin effect on cell cycle kinetics indicated that G1/S transition delay may underlie the observed inhibition of choriocarcinoma cell proliferation by melatonin.