High levels of melatonin in the seeds of edible plants: possible function in germ tissue protection

Life Sci. 2000 Nov 10;67(25):3023-9. doi: 10.1016/s0024-3205(00)00896-1.


The seeds of plants represent the anlage of the next generation and are vital to their existence. Melatonin has been identified in the leaves and flowers of plants but not in seeds. In this study, we examined the seeds of 15 edible plants for the presence of melatonin which was extracted using cold ethanol. Melatonin was initially identified by radioimmunoassay and subsequently quantified and confirmed using high performance liquid chromatography. The physiological concentrations of melatonin in the 15 seeds studied ranged from 2 to 200 ng/g dry weight. The highest concentrations of melatonin were observed in white and black mustard seeds. This level of melatonin is much higher than the known physiological concentrations in the blood of many vertebrates. Since the seed, particularly its germ tissue, is highly vulnerable to oxidative stress and damage, we surmise that melatonin, a free radical scavenger, might be present as an important component of its antioxidant defense system. Thus, melatonin in seeds may be essential in protecting germ and reproductive tissues of plants from oxidative damage due to ultraviolet light, drought, extremes in temperature, and environmental chemical pollutants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Melatonin / analysis*
  • Melatonin / physiology
  • Plants, Edible / chemistry*
  • Plants, Edible / embryology
  • Seeds / chemistry*


  • Melatonin