Melatonin and the immune system

Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 1997 Mar;112(3):203-11. doi: 10.1159/000237455.


In recent years, melatonin, i.e. the major endocrine product of the pineal gland, was investigated as to its possible regulatory role in the communication between the neuroendocrine and the immune systems. First indications that melatonin may be an endocrine immunomodulator came from early reports about antitumor effects in animals and humans. Since then evidence has accumulated suggesting that melatonin-as a well-preserved molecule during evolution-is indeed involved in the feedback between neuroendocrine and immune functions. At present we begin to discover molecular mechanisms, by which melatonin affects cellular functions in general, and from the variety of possible direct and indirect interactions it appears that melatonin may play a complex physiological role in neuroimmunomodulation. In this article we want to give a critical review of the numerous reports on melatonin influencing immune functions, and to discuss the possible different mechanisms of action, which were suggested recently.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Melatonin / immunology*


  • Melatonin