Melatonin: reducing molecular pathology and dysfunction due to free radicals and associated reactants.

: Endogenously produced metabolites of ground state oxygen are highly reactive and destructive to intracellular and extracellular molecules. The resulting damage, referred to as oxidative stress, leads to molecular and cellular dysfunction. The destruction of essential macromolecules by oxygen-based reactants is the basis of some diseases and is believed to be involved in the processes of aging. Free radical scavengers and antioxidants neutralize and/or metabolically remove reactive species from cells before they carry out their destructive activities. Melatonin is a highly ubiquitous direct free radical scavenger and indirect antioxidant. This brief report summarizes the interactions of melatonin with reactive species and identifies the resulting products. The paper also defines the melatonin antioxidant cascade wherein not only melatonin but at least one of the products, i.e., N(1)-acetyl-N(2)-formyl-5-methoxykynuramine, formed as a result of melatonin scavenging hydrogen peroxide is also a potent scavenger. The review summarizes the data which shows that melatonin is not only a pharmacologically useful free radical scavenger but that it functions in this capacity at physiological concentrations as well. Finally, this report identifies high oxidative stress situations in humans where melatonin has proven effective in reducing the severity of the disease state. In the last decade there have been hundreds of publications documenting melatonin's protective actions against a vast array of conditions, e.g., ischemia/reperfusion injury, toxin exposure, lipopolysaccharide exposure, etc., where free radical damage is a component of the condition.