Melatonin membrane receptors in peripheral tissues: distribution and functions

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2012 Apr 4;351(2):152-66. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2012.01.004. Epub 2012 Jan 8.


Many of melatonin's actions are mediated through interaction with the G-protein coupled membrane bound melatonin receptors type 1 and type 2 (MT1 and MT2, respectively) or, indirectly with nuclear orphan receptors from the RORα/RZR family. Melatonin also binds to the quinone reductase II enzyme, previously defined the MT3 receptor. Melatonin receptors are widely distributed in the body; herein we summarize their expression and actions in non-neural tissues. Several controversies still exist regarding, for example, whether melatonin binds the RORα/RZR family. Studies of the peripheral distribution of melatonin receptors are important since they are attractive targets for immunomodulation, regulation of endocrine, reproductive and cardiovascular functions, modulation of skin pigmentation, hair growth, cancerogenesis, and aging. Melatonin receptor agonists and antagonists have an exciting future since they could define multiple mechanisms by which melatonin modulates the complexity of such a wide variety of physiological and pathological processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism
  • Breast / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular System / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Melatonin / agonists
  • Melatonin / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Melatonin / metabolism*
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group F, Member 1 / metabolism
  • Quinone Reductases / metabolism
  • Receptors, Melatonin / metabolism*
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Uterus / metabolism


  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group F, Member 1
  • Receptors, Melatonin
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Quinone Reductases
  • Melatonin