Melatonin Supports CYP2D-Mediated Serotonin Synthesis in the Brain

Drug Metab Dispos. 2016 Mar;44(3):445-52. doi: 10.1124/dmd.115.067413.


Melatonin is used in the therapy of sleep and mood disorders and as a neuroprotective agent. The aim of our study was to demonstrate that melatonin supported (via its deacetylation to 5-methoxytryptamine) CYP2D-mediated synthesis of serotonin from 5-methoxytryptamine. We measured serotonin tissue content in some brain regions (the cortex, hippocampus, nucleus accumbens, striatum, thalamus, hypothalamus, brain stem, medulla oblongata, and cerebellum) (model A), as well as its extracellular concentration in the striatum using an in vivo microdialysis (model B) after melatonin injection (100 mg/kg i.p.) to male Wistar rats. Melatonin increased the tissue concentration of serotonin in the brain structures studied of naïve, sham-operated, or serotonergic neurotoxin (5,7-dihydroxytryptamine)-lesioned rats (model A). Intracerebroventricular quinine (a CYP2D inhibitor) prevented the melatonin-induced increase in serotonin concentration. In the presence of pargyline (a monoaminoxidase inhibitor), the effect of melatonin was not visible in the majority of the brain structures studied but could be seen in all of them in 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine-lesioned animals when serotonin storage and synthesis via a classic tryptophan pathway was diminished. Melatonin alone did not significantly increase extracellular serotonin concentration in the striatum of naïve rats but raised its content in pargyline-pretreated animals (model B). The CYP2D inhibitor propafenone given intrastructurally prevented the melatonin-induced increase in striatal serotonin in those animals. The obtained results indicate that melatonin supports CYP2D-catalyzed serotonin synthesis from 5-methoxytryptamine in the brain in vivo, which closes the serotonin-melatonin-serotonin biochemical cycle. The metabolism of exogenous melatonin to the neurotransmitter serotonin may be regarded as a newly recognized additional component of its pharmacological action.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 5-Methoxytryptamine / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Melatonin / metabolism*
  • Microdialysis / methods
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Serotonin / metabolism*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Serotonin
  • 5-Methoxytryptamine
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Melatonin