Neuroprotection by melatonin from glutamate-induced excitotoxicity during development of the cerebellum in the chick embryo

J Pineal Res. 2000 Mar;28(2):81-8. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-079x.2001.280203.x.


This work investigated the ability of melatonin to prevent cell damage in the cerebellar cortex of chick embryo caused by glutamate administration. Cell injury was evaluated estimating, at ultrastructural level, the phenomenon of cell death and the synaptogenesis of the Purkinje cells and the cerebellar glomerular synaptic complex. Administration of glutamate during cerebellar development of the chick provokes excitotoxic neuronal degeneration characterized by a phenomenon of neuronal cell death that exhibits essentially the features of a death pattern described as necrosis and the deletion of synaptogenic processes. Our results show that melatonin has a neuroprotective effect against glutamate-induced excitotoxicity. This effect is morphologically revealed by the lack of neural cell death in the embryos treated with melatonin prior to glutamate injection and also by the degree of a synaptogenesis similar to that exhibited by the control group. Likewise, we corroborate the absence of teratological effects of melatonin on chick cerebellar development. Although the possible mechanisms involved in the neuroprotective effect of melatonin are discussed, i.e., direct antioxidant effects, up-regulating endogenous antioxidant defenses, and inhibiting nitric oxide formation activated by glutamate, further studies are required to establish the actual mechanism involved in the neuroprotective effect of melatonin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cerebellar Cortex / embryology*
  • Cerebellar Cortex / ultrastructure
  • Chick Embryo / drug effects*
  • Chick Embryo / ultrastructure
  • Melatonin / pharmacology*
  • Nerve Degeneration / chemically induced
  • Nerve Degeneration / pathology
  • Nerve Degeneration / prevention & control*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Sodium Glutamate / toxicity*
  • Synaptosomes / drug effects


  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Melatonin
  • Sodium Glutamate