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      Melatonin in Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders

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          Increased oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction have been identified as common pathophysiological phenomena associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD) and Huntington's disease (HD). As the age-related decline in the production of melatonin may contribute to increased levels of oxidative stress in the elderly, the role of this neuroprotective agent is attracting increasing attention. Melatonin has multiple actions as a regulator of antioxidant and prooxidant enzymes, radical scavenger and antagonist of mitochondrial radical formation. The ability of melatonin and its kynuramine metabolites to interact directly with the electron transport chain by increasing the electron flow and reducing electron leakage are unique features by which melatonin is able to increase the survival of neurons under enhanced oxidative stress. Moreover, antifibrillogenic actions have been demonstrated in vitro, also in the presence of profibrillogenic apoE4 or apoE3, and in vivo, in a transgenic mouse model. Amyloid-β toxicity is antagonized by melatonin and one of its kynuramine metabolites. Cytoskeletal disorganization and protein hyperphosphorylation, as induced in several cell-line models, have been attenuated by melatonin, effects comprising stress kinase downregulation and extending to neurotrophin expression. Various experimental models of AD, PD and HD indicate the usefulness of melatonin in antagonizing disease progression and/or mitigating some of the symptoms. Melatonin secretion has been found to be altered in AD and PD. Attempts to compensate for age- and disease-dependent melatonin deficiency have shown that administration of this compound can improve sleep efficiency in AD and PD and, to some extent, cognitive function in AD patients. Exogenous melatonin has also been reported to alleviate behavioral symptoms such as sundowning. Taken together, these findings suggest that melatonin, its analogues and kynuric metabolites may have potential value in prevention and treatment of AD and other neurodegenerative disorders.

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          Most cited references 353

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             I Fridovich (1995)
            O2- oxidizes the [4Fe-4S] clusters of dehydratases, such as aconitase, causing-inactivation and release of Fe(II), which may then reduce H2O2 to OH- +OH.. SODs inhibit such HO. production by scavengingO2-, but Cu, ZnSODs, by virtue of a nonspecific peroxidase activity, may peroxidize spin trapping agents and thus give the appearance of catalyzing OH. production from H2O2. There is a glycosylated, tetrameric Cu, ZnSOD in the extracellular space that binds to acidic glycosamino-glycans. It minimizes the reaction of O2- with NO. E. coli, and other gram negative microorganisms, contain a periplasmic Cu, ZnSOD that may serve to protect against extracellular O2-. Mn(III) complexes of multidentate macrocyclic nitrogenous ligands catalyze the dismutation of O2- and are being explored as potential pharmaceutical agents. SOD-null mutants have been prepared to reveal the biological effects of O2-. SodA, sodB E. coli exhibit dioxygen-dependent auxotrophies and enhanced mutagenesis, reflecting O2(-)-sensitive biosynthetic pathways and DNA damage. Yeast, lacking either Cu, ZnSOD or MnSOD, are oxygen intolerant, and the double mutant was hypermutable and defective in sporulation and exhibited requirements for methionine and lysine. A Cu, ZnSOD-null Drosophila exhibited a shortened lifespan.
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              Metals, toxicity and oxidative stress.

              Metal-induced toxicity and carcinogenicity, with an emphasis on the generation and role of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, is reviewed. Metal-mediated formation of free radicals causes various modifications to DNA bases, enhanced lipid peroxidation, and altered calcium and sulfhydryl homeostasis. Lipid peroxides, formed by the attack of radicals on polyunsaturated fatty acid residues of phospholipids, can further react with redox metals finally producing mutagenic and carcinogenic malondialdehyde, 4-hydroxynonenal and other exocyclic DNA adducts (etheno and/or propano adducts). Whilst iron (Fe), copper (Cu), chromium (Cr), vanadium (V) and cobalt (Co) undergo redox-cycling reactions, for a second group of metals, mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd) and nickel (Ni), the primary route for their toxicity is depletion of glutathione and bonding to sulfhydryl groups of proteins. Arsenic (As) is thought to bind directly to critical thiols, however, other mechanisms, involving formation of hydrogen peroxide under physiological conditions, have been proposed. The unifying factor in determining toxicity and carcinogenicity for all these metals is the generation of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. Common mechanisms involving the Fenton reaction, generation of the superoxide radical and the hydroxyl radical appear to be involved for iron, copper, chromium, vanadium and cobalt primarily associated with mitochondria, microsomes and peroxisomes. However, a recent discovery that the upper limit of "free pools" of copper is far less than a single atom per cell casts serious doubt on the in vivo role of copper in Fenton-like generation of free radicals. Nitric oxide (NO) seems to be involved in arsenite-induced DNA damage and pyrimidine excision inhibition. Various studies have confirmed that metals activate signalling pathways and the carcinogenic effect of metals has been related to activation of mainly redox-sensitive transcription factors, involving NF-kappaB, AP-1 and p53. Antioxidants (both enzymatic and non-enzymatic) provide protection against deleterious metal-mediated free radical attacks. Vitamin E and melatonin can prevent the majority of metal-mediated (iron, copper, cadmium) damage both in vitro systems and in metal-loaded animals. Toxicity studies involving chromium have shown that the protective effect of vitamin E against lipid peroxidation may be associated rather with the level of non-enzymatic antioxidants than the activity of enzymatic antioxidants. However, a very recent epidemiological study has shown that a daily intake of vitamin E of more than 400 IU increases the risk of death and should be avoided. While previous studies have proposed a deleterious pro-oxidant effect of vitamin C (ascorbate) in the presence of iron (or copper), recent results have shown that even in the presence of redox-active iron (or copper) and hydrogen peroxide, ascorbate acts as an antioxidant that prevents lipid peroxidation and does not promote protein oxidation in humans in vitro. Experimental results have also shown a link between vanadium and oxidative stress in the etiology of diabetes. The impact of zinc (Zn) on the immune system, the ability of zinc to act as an antioxidant in order to reduce oxidative stress and the neuroprotective and neurodegenerative role of zinc (and copper) in the etiology of Alzheimer's disease is also discussed. This review summarizes recent findings in the metal-induced formation of free radicals and the role of oxidative stress in the carcinogenicity and toxicity of metals.

                Author and article information

                [1 ]Department of Physiology, School of Medical Sciences, University Sains Malaysia, Kampus Kesihatan, 16150, Kubang kerian, Kelantan, Malaysia
                [2 ]Comprehensive Center for Sleep Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, 1176 – 5 th Avenue, New York, NY 10029, USA
                [3 ]Departamento de Fisiología, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1121, Buenos Aires, Argentina
                [4 ]Johann Friedrich Blumenbach Institute of Zoology and Anthropology, University of Goettingen, Berliner Str. 28, D-37073 Goettingen, Germany
                Behav Brain Funct
                Behavioral and Brain Functions
                BioMed Central (London )
                4 May 2006
                : 2
                : 15
                Copyright © 2006 Srinivasan et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.




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