Melatonin in mammals, produced by the pineal gland and elsewhere, has shown antioxidant and neuroprotective properties in neuronal cells. We investigated whether melatonin would increase newly born cells (cell proliferation) in the dentate gyrus of maternally separated rats. To examine the effect of melatonin on cell proliferation of the dentate gyrus in maternally separated rats, 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdU) immunohistochemistry was performed. Rat pups were separated from their mothers and socially isolated on postnatal day 14. Melatonin (10 mg/kg, i.p.) and BrdU (50 mg/kg, i.p.) were given to them for 7 days. The number of BrdU-positive cells was significantly increased in the dentate gyrus of maternally separated pups with melatonin administration (P < 0.001). In addition, the expression of glucocorticoid receptor was significantly decreased in the dentate gyrus compared with maternally separated pups not given melatonin (P < 0.001). This is the first report that melatonin increases cell proliferation in the dentate gyrus of maternally separated rats.