Melatonin in Prevention of the Sequence from Reflux Esophagitis to Barrett's Esophagus and Esophageal Adenocarcinoma: Experimental and Clinical Perspectives

Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Jul 13;19(7):2033. doi: 10.3390/ijms19072033.


Melatonin is a tryptophan-derived molecule with pleiotropic activities which is produced in all living organisms. This "sleep" hormone is a free radical scavenger, which activates several anti-oxidative enzymes and mechanisms. Melatonin, a highly lipophilic hormone, can reach body target cells rapidly, acting as the circadian signal to alter numerous physiological functions in the body. This indoleamine can protect the organs against a variety of damaging agents via multiple signaling. This review focused on the role played by melatonin in the mechanism of esophagoprotection, starting with its short-term protection against acute reflux esophagitis and then investigating the long-term prevention of chronic inflammation that leads to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and Barrett's esophagus. Since both of these condition are also identified as major risk factors for esophageal carcinoma, we provide some experimental and clinical evidence that supplementation therapy with melatonin could be useful in esophageal injury by protecting various animal models and patients with GERD from erosions, Barrett's esophagus and neoplasia. The physiological aspects of the synthesis and release of this indoleamine in the gut, including its release into portal circulation and liver uptake is examined. The beneficial influence of melatonin in preventing esophageal injury from acid-pepsin and acid-pepsin-bile exposure in animals as well as the usefulness of melatonin and its precursor, L-tryptophan in prophylactic and supplementary therapy against esophageal disorders in humans, are also discussed.

Keywords: Barrett’s esophagus; L-tryptophan; esophageal adenocarcinoma; esophageal blood flow; gastroesophageal reflux disease; inflammation; melatonin; reflux esophagitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / prevention & control*
  • Animals
  • Barrett Esophagus / prevention & control*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Esophagitis, Peptic / prevention & control*
  • Esophagus / drug effects
  • Esophagus / metabolism
  • Esophagus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Melatonin / metabolism
  • Melatonin / pharmacology
  • Melatonin / therapeutic use*
  • Models, Biological
  • Protective Agents / pharmacology
  • Protective Agents / therapeutic use


  • Protective Agents
  • Melatonin

Supplementary concepts

  • Adenocarcinoma Of Esophagus