"Hormone of darkness" and human reproductive process: direct regulatory role of melatonin in human corpus luteum

J Endocrinol Invest. 2019 Oct;42(10):1191-1197. doi: 10.1007/s40618-019-01036-3. Epub 2019 Mar 25.


Purpose: To investigate the possible role of melatonin on human luteal cell function.

Methods: Corpora lutea were obtained from normally menstruating women (25-38 years old) in the midluteal phase (days 5-6 from ovulation) at the time of surgery for non-endocrine gynecologic diseases. The protocol was approved by the institutional review board of Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome and all patients provided written informed consent. The corpora lutea were dated on the basis of the presumptive day of ovulation (day 0) , determined by urinary luteinizing hormone (LH) peak, ultrasound detection of corpus luteum or disappearance of the dominant follicle, and a rise in the plasma P concentration. ELISA or EIA kit and immunohistochemistry were performed.

Results: Melatonin was able to increase progesterone release and to influence the balance between luteotrophic and luteolityc factors. In addition, melatonin expression and MT2 receptor were detected, confirming the direct action of this indoleamine on CL.

Conclusions: Melatonin may play an intriguing role in direct regulation of CL function and in establishing and maintaining of initial pregnancy. In conclusion, melatonin could become a relevant medication for improving ovarian and luteal function and in the early stages of pregnancy, opening new opportunities for the management of several ovarian-luteal and pregnancy diseases.

Keywords: Human corpus luteum; Melatonin; Progesterone; Reproduction.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Corpus Luteum / drug effects*
  • Corpus Luteum / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Luteal Phase / drug effects*
  • Luteal Phase / metabolism
  • Melatonin / pharmacology*
  • Melatonin / physiology
  • Ovarian Follicle / drug effects
  • Ovarian Follicle / metabolism
  • Ovulation / drug effects
  • Progesterone / metabolism
  • Prostaglandins / metabolism
  • Reproduction / drug effects*
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism


  • Prostaglandins
  • VEGFA protein, human
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Progesterone
  • Melatonin