Melatonin enhances mitochondrial biogenesis and protects against rotenone-induced mitochondrial deficiency in early porcine embryos

J Pineal Res. 2020 Mar;68(2):e12627. doi: 10.1111/jpi.12627. Epub 2019 Dec 18.


Melatonin, a major hormone of the pineal gland, exerts many beneficial effects on mitochondria. Several studies have shown that melatonin can protect against toxin-induced oocyte quality impairment during maturation. However, there is little information regarding the beneficial effects of melatonin on toxin-exposed early embryos, and the mechanisms underlying such effects have not been determined. Rotenone, a chemical widely used in agriculture, induces mitochondrial toxicity, therefore, damaging the reproductive system, impairing oocyte maturation, ovulation, and fertilization. We investigated whether melatonin attenuated rotenone exposure-induced impairment of embryo development by its mitochondrial protection effect. Activated oocytes were randomly assigned to four groups: the control, melatonin treatment, rotenone-exposed, and "rotenone + melatonin" groups. Treatment with melatonin abrogated rotenone-induced impairment of embryo development, mitochondrial dysfunction, and ATP deficiency, and significantly decreased oxidative stress and apoptosis. Melatonin also increased SIRT1 and PGC-1α expression, which promoted mitochondrial biogenesis. SIRT1 knockdown or pharmacological inhibition abolished melatonin's ability to revert rotenone-induced impairment. Thus, melatonin rescued rotenone-induced impairment of embryo development by reducing ROS production and promoting mitochondrial biogenesis. This study shows that melatonin rescues toxin-induced impairment of early porcine embryo development by promoting mitochondrial biogenesis.

Keywords: melatonin; mitochondrial biogenesis; oxidative stress; porcine embryo; rotenone.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryo, Mammalian* / embryology
  • Embryo, Mammalian* / pathology
  • Embryonic Development / drug effects*
  • Melatonin / pharmacology*
  • Mitochondria* / metabolism
  • Mitochondria* / pathology
  • Mitochondrial Diseases* / chemically induced
  • Mitochondrial Diseases* / embryology
  • Mitochondrial Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Rotenone / adverse effects*
  • Rotenone / pharmacology
  • Swine


  • Rotenone
  • Melatonin