Melatonin: functions and ligands

Drug Discov Today. 2014 Sep;19(9):1410-8. doi: 10.1016/j.drudis.2014.04.014. Epub 2014 Apr 30.


Melatonin is a chronobiotic substance that acts as synchronizer by stabilizing bodily rhythms. Its synthesis occurs in various locations throughout the body, including the pineal gland, skin, lymphocytes and gastrointestinal tract (GIT). Its synthesis and secretion is controlled by light and dark conditions, whereby light decreases and darkness increases its production. Thus, melatonin is also known as the 'hormone of darkness'. Melatonin and analogs that bind to the melatonin receptors are important because of their role in the management of depression, insomnia, epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease (AD), diabetes, obesity, alopecia, migraine, cancer, and immune and cardiac disorders. In this review, we discuss the mechanism of action of melatonin in these disorders, which could aid in the design of novel melatonin receptor ligands.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Darkness
  • Drug Design*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Light
  • Melatonin / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Melatonin / metabolism*


  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Melatonin
  • Melatonin