Previous studies presented evidence for impaired nocturnal secretion and synthesis of melatonin in patients with coronary heart disease (CHD). This study aimed to investigate whether the melatonin receptor subtype mt1 is differentially expressed in coronary arteries derived from patients with CHD (n = 9) compared to patients with dilative cardiomyopathy (CMP; n = 10) who served as controls. Expression of the mt1 receptor was studied in sections of isolated coronary arteries by a reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and a Western immunoblot technique. In addition, the data from the Western blotting of 15 patients were interpolated against the exact time of aortic clamp to study the 24h expression of the mt1 receptor. The analyses of the results from both methods indicated the presence of the mt1 receptor in all of the individuals. No statistically significant difference was observed in the receptor expression between patients with CHD and those with CMP (in arbitrary units: 3.39 +/- 3.08 versus 3.91 +/- 2.78). Expression of the melatonin receptor in the coronary arteries of the whole patient group presented a 24h variation, with the lowest values detectable after 02:00 up to the late morning hours and a progressive increase beginning after 13:00 until 00:00 (mesor = 3.66, amplitude = 3.23, acrophase = 20.45, P = .0003). When studying the 24h variation in patients with CHD and CMP separately, a nearly similar circadian course was observed. In conclusion, we demonstrated for the first time a 24h variation of a melatonin receptor subtype in human vessels. Furthermore, in relation to our results, we suggest that the expression of the mt1 melatonin receptor in the coronary arteries is probably not impaired in patients with CHD.