Partial protective effects of melatonin on developing brain in a rat model of chorioamnionitis

Sci Rep. 2021 Nov 12;11(1):22167. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-01746-w.


Melatonin has shown promising neuroprotective effects due to its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic properties, making it a candidate drug for translation to humans in conditions that compromise the developing brain. Our study aimed to explore the impact of prenatal melatonin in an inflammatory/infectious context on GABAergic neurons and on oligodendrocytes (OLs), key cells involved in the encephalopathy of prematurity. An inflammatory/infectious agent (LPS, 300 μg/kg) was injected intraperitoneally (i.p.) to pregnant Wistar rats at gestational day 19 and 20. Melatonin (5 mg/kg) was injected i.p. following the same schedule. Immunostainings focusing on GABAergic neurons, OL lineage and myelination were performed on pup brain sections. Melatonin succeeded in preventing the LPS-induced decrease of GABAergic neurons within the retrospenial cortex, and sustainably promoted GABAergic neurons within the dentate gyrus in the inflammatory/infectious context. However, melatonin did not effectively prevent the LPS-induced alterations on OLs and myelination. Therefore, we demonstrated that melatonin partially prevented the deleterious effects of LPS according to the cell type. The timing of exposure related to the cell maturation stage is likely to be critical to achieve an efficient action of melatonin. Furthermore, it can be speculated that melatonin exerts a modest protective effect on extremely preterm infant brains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / embryology*
  • Chorioamnionitis / etiology
  • Chorioamnionitis / metabolism
  • Chorioamnionitis / pathology*
  • Chorioamnionitis / prevention & control
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Female
  • GABAergic Neurons / drug effects
  • GABAergic Neurons / metabolism
  • Gray Matter / drug effects
  • Gray Matter / metabolism
  • Gray Matter / pathology
  • Lipopolysaccharides / adverse effects
  • Melatonin / pharmacology*
  • Neurogenesis / drug effects*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Oligodendroglia / drug effects
  • Oligodendroglia / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Cytokines
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Melatonin