Growth-inhibitory activity of melatonin on human androgen-independent DU 145 prostate cancer cells

Prostate. 2000 Nov 1;45(3):238-44. doi: 10.1002/1097-0045(20001101)45:3<238::aid-pros6>;2-w.


Background: The pineal hormone melatonin has been shown to exert a direct oncostatic activity on neoplastic cells, particularly from breast cancer. In the present study, we evaluated the effects of melatonin on the proliferation and on the cell cycle distribution of human androgen-independent DU 145 prostate cancer cells. Experiments were also performed to gain insights into the possible mechanism of action of the hormone.

Methods: The effects of melatonin on DU 145 cell proliferation was analyzed by counting the cells by hemocytometer at the end of treatment. The effects of the pineal hormone on cell cycle distribution were evaluated by FACS analysis. RT-PCR studies were performed to detect Mel(1a) and Mel(1b) expression in DU 145 cells. The cellular localization of (125)I-melatonin binding sites was investigated by radioreceptor assay. A commercially available binding-protein assay kit was utilized to evaluate intracellular cAMP levels.

Results: Melatonin, in physiological doses, significantly inhibited DU 145 cell proliferation and induced cell cycle withdrawal by accumulating cells in G0/G1 phase. The mRNA for Mel(1a) receptors was found to be expressed in DU 145 cells; however, by radioreceptor assay, no binding sites for (125)I-melatonin could be detected in membrane preparations, suggesting that, in these cells, the level of translation of this mRNA is too low to possibly mediate the antiproliferative action of the hormone. In agreement with this hypothesis, melatonin did not affect forskolin-induced intracellular cAMP accumulation. Binding sites for (125)I-melatonin were found in nuclear extracts of DU 145 cells.

Conclusions: Melatonin exerts a direct oncostatic activity on human androgen-independent prostate cancer cells, by affecting cell cycle progression. This activity seems to be mediated by nuclear, but not by membrane, receptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Cycle / drug effects*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melatonin / pharmacology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / analysis
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / analysis
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Melatonin
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Receptors, Melatonin
  • Melatonin