Folate deficiency alters melatonin secretion in rats

J Nutr. 2002 Sep;132(9):2781-4. doi: 10.1093/jn/132.9.2781.


The final step of melatonin (MLT) synthesis is methylation of N-acetyl-serotonin, with S-adenosylmethionine as a methyl donor provided by a metabolic pathway involving sulfur-containing amino acids (homocysteine and methionine). Remethylation of homocysteine to methionine requires folate. The present study was undertaken to test the influence of folate deficiency on MLT secretion. Severe folate deficiency was induced in rats by feeding them a synthetic diet containing (per kg diet) 0 mg folate and 10 g succinylsulfathiazole. Control rats were fed the same diet containing 8 mg folate/kg. After 4 wk, erythrocyte folate concentrations were significantly lower and plasma homocysteine levels were greater in folate-deficient rats than in controls. Pineal MLT concentration and urinary excretions of MLT, 6 sulfatoxymelatonin (the main hepatic MLT metabolite) and methoxylated catechol compounds were lower in the folate-deficient group than in the controls, whereas plasma catecholamine concentrations did not differ. Decreases generally were more marked at wk 2 than at wk 4 for the urinary metabolite excretions. These findings indicate that folate deficiency dramatically alters MLT secretion in rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Folic Acid / blood
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / metabolism*
  • Homocysteine / blood
  • Male
  • Melatonin / metabolism*
  • Melatonin / urine
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Homocysteine
  • Folic Acid
  • Melatonin