Major environmental variables such as daily and seasonal changes of light and temperature regulate the daily circadian variations of synthesis and release of the pineal neurohormone N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine (melatonin). Melatonin has now been shown to be a potent immunoregulatory agent, and to be able to antagonize the immunosuppressive effects of acute anxiety stress in mice, as measured by antibody production, by thymus weight, and by the capacity of stressed- and evening-melatonin-treated mice to react against a lethal virus. Both psychogenic factors and infectious agents such as viruses can act as "stressors" and induce an immunosuppression. Their combination is a determinant for the course of infectious diseases and, perhaps, cancer. Circadian (evening) melatonin possesses thus the singular ability to up-regulate the immunosuppression of stressed mice. This effect of melatonin is not exerted directly on immunocompetent cells, but mediated via the endogenous opioid system upon antigen-activation of T cells. Melatonin being a short-lived hormone with negligible side-effects which is rapidly degraded and eliminated by the body, the use of melatonin offers a new approach to the physiological control of stress and stress-related infectious diseases. In addition, melatonin could be used for the potentiation of primary immunization (vaccination) against antigens of the most varied nature which do not evoke a robust or longlasting secondary (memory) response. The regulatory function of pineal melatonin is discussed also in relation to hematopoiesis, to its oncostatic effects, and to its possible dual role in reproduction physiology and generation of immunocompetence and tolerance during ontogeny.