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Melatonin in Medicinal and Food Plants: Occurrence, Bioavailability, and Health Potential for Humans

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Review

Melatonin in Medicinal and Food Plants: Occurrence, Bioavailability, and Health Potential for Humans

Bahare Salehi et al. Cells.

Abstract

Melatonin is a widespread molecule among living organisms involved in multiple biological, hormonal, and physiological processes at cellular, tissue, and organic levels. It is well-known for its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, and renowned antioxidant effects, acting as a free radical scavenger, up-regulating antioxidant enzymes, reducing mitochondrial electron leakage, and interfering with proinflammatory signaling pathways. Detected in various medicinal and food plants, its concentration is widely variable. Plant generative organs (e.g., flowers, fruits), and especially seeds, have been proposed as having the highest melatonin concentrations, markedly higher than those found in vertebrate tissues. In addition, seeds are also rich in other substances (lipids, sugars, and proteins), constituting the energetic reserve for a potentially growing seedling and beneficial for the human diet. Thus, given that dietary melatonin is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and transported into the bloodstream, the ingestion of medicinal and plant foods by mammals as a source of melatonin may be conceived as a key step in serum melatonin modulation and, consequently, health promotion.

Keywords: antioxidants; bioactive phytochemicals; herbal remedies; melatonin; nutraceuticals; tryptophan derivatives.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Chemical structure and mass spectrum of melatonin fragmentation pattern.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Antioxidant cascade of melatonin derivatives in plants. Melatonin can be hydroxylated at different C-atoms (2, 3, 4, 6, 7, β) by subsequent interactions with two hydroxyl radicals. ROS, reactive oxygen species; UVB, ultraviolet B (shortwave) rays.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Comparison of melatonin biosynthetic pathways in plants and humans. AADC, aromatic-l-amino-acid decarboxylase; AANAT, arylalkylamine N-acetyltransferase; ASMT, N-acetylserotonin methyltransferase; COMT, caffeic acid O-methyltransferase; HIOMT, hydroxyindole-O-methyltransferase; SNAT, serotonin-N-acetyltransferase; T5H, tryptamine 5-hydroxylase; TDC, tryptophan decarboxylase; TP5H, tryptophan 5-hydroxylase [61].
Figure 4
Figure 4
The main roles and functions of melatonin in humans.
Figure 5
Figure 5
Interaction of melatonin with oxidizing agents in humans.

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