Role of melatonin in the eye and ocular dysfunctions

Vis Neurosci. 2006 Nov-Dec;23(6):853-62. doi: 10.1017/S0952523806230189.


Melatonin is a ubiquitous molecule and widely distributed in nature, with functional activity occurring in unicellular organisms, plants, fungi, and animals. Several studies have indicated that melatonin synthesis occurs in the retina of most vertebrates, including mammals. The retinal biosynthesis of melatonin and the mechanisms involved in the regulation of this process have been extensively studied. Circadian clocks located in the photoreceptors and retinal neurons regulate melatonin synthesis in the eye. Photoreceptors, dopaminergic amacrine neurons, and horizontal cells of the retina, corneal epithelium, stroma endothelium, and the sclera all have melatonin receptors, indicating a widespread ocular function for melatonin. In addition, melatonin is an effective antioxidant which scavenges free radicals and up-regulates several antioxidant enzymes. It also has a strong antiapoptotic signaling function, an effect that it exerts even during ischemia. Melatonin cytoprotective properties may have practical implications in the treatment of ocular diseases, like glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eye / metabolism*
  • Eye Diseases / metabolism*
  • Eye Diseases / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Melatonin / physiology*


  • Melatonin