Melatonin site and mechanism of action: single or multiple?

J Pineal Res. 1997 Aug;23(1):32-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-079x.1997.tb00332.x.


By affecting the entrainment pathways of the biologic clock, melatonin has a major influence on the circadian and seasonal organization of vertebrates. In addition, a number of versatile functions that far transcend melatonin actions on photoperiodic time measurement and circadian entrainment have emerged. Melatonin is a free radical scavenger and antioxidant and it has a significant immunomodulatory activity, being presumably a major factor in an organism's defense toxic agents and invading organisms. Besides affecting specific receptors in cell membranes to exert its effects, the interaction of melatonin with nuclear receptor sites and with intracellular proteins, like calmodulin or tubulin-associated proteins, as well as the direct antioxidant effects of melatonin, may explain many general functions of the pineal hormone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants
  • Brain / physiology
  • Circadian Rhythm / drug effects
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Humans
  • Immunity / drug effects
  • Melatonin / pharmacology*
  • Melatonin / physiology*
  • Photoperiod
  • Pineal Gland / physiology
  • Seasons
  • Signal Transduction


  • Antioxidants
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Melatonin