Physiological and metabolic functions of melatonin

J Physiol Biochem. 2004 Mar;60(1):61-72. doi: 10.1007/BF03168221.


Melatonin is a lipophilic hormone, mainly produced and secreted at night by the pineal gland. Melatonin synthesis is under the control of postganglionic sympathetic fibers that innervates the pineal gland. Melatonin acts via high affinity G protein-coupled membrane receptors. To date, three different receptor subtypes have been identified in mammals: MT1 (Mel 1a) and MT2 (Mel 1b) and a putative binding site called MT3. The chronobiotic properties of the hormone for resynchronization of sleep and circadian rhythms disturbances has been demonstrated both in animal models or in clinical trials. Several other physiological effects of melatonin in different peripheral tissues have been described in the past years. In this way, it has been demonstrated that the hormone is involved in the regulation of seasonal reproduction, body weight and energy balance. This contribution has been focused to review some of the physiological functions of melatonin as well as the role of the hormone in the regulation of energy balance and its possible involvement in the development of obesity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Melatonin / metabolism
  • Melatonin / pharmacology
  • Melatonin / physiology*
  • Receptors, Melatonin / metabolism


  • Receptors, Melatonin
  • Melatonin