Since melatonin was first isolated in 1958 up to the last few years, this substance was considered a hormone exclusive to the pineal gland. Although melatonin has lately been identified in a large number of extrapineal sites, its potential biological actions have not yet been studied. This paper shows that human lymphocyte-synthesized melatonin plays a crucial role modulating IL-2/IL-2 receptor system because when blocking melatonin biosynthesis by the tryptophan hydroxylase inhibitor, parachlorophenylalanine, both IL-2 and IL-2 receptor levels fell, restoring them by adding exogenous melatonin. Moreover, we demonstrated that this endogenous melatonin interfered with the exogenous melatonin effect on IL-2 production. Melatonin exerted these effects by a receptor-mediated action mechanism because both IL-2 and IL-2 receptor expressions significantly decreased when lymphocytes were incubated in the presence of the specific membrane and/or nuclear melatonin receptor antagonists, luzindole, and/or CGP 55644, respectively. Finally, we made the real significance of the membrane melatonin receptors in this process clear, so prostaglandin E(2)-induced inhibition on IL-2 production increased when we blocked the membrane receptors using luzindole. In conclusion, these data show that endogenous melatonin is an essential part for an accurate response of human lymphocytes through the modulation of IL-2/IL-2 receptor system.