Mammalian melatonin receptors: molecular biology and signal transduction

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Neurobiology; Weaver Lab

Publication Date


Document Type



Animals; Circadian Rhythm; Mammals; Molecular Biology; Receptors, Cell Surface; Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear; Receptors, Melatonin; Signal Transduction; Suprachiasmatic Nucleus


Neuroscience and Neurobiology


The pineal hormone, melatonin, is an important regulator of seasonal reproduction and circadian rhythms. Its effects are mediated via high-affinity melatonin receptors, located on cells of the pituitary pars tuberalis (PT) and suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), respectively. Two subtypes of mammalian melatonin receptors have been cloned and characterized, the MT1 (Mel(1a)) and the MT2 (Mel(1b)) melatonin receptor subtypes. Both subtypes are members of the seven-transmembrane G protein-coupled receptor family. By using recombinant melatonin receptors it has been shown that the MT1 melatonin receptor is coupled to different G proteins that mediate adenylyl cyclase inhibition and phospholipase C beta activation. The MT2 receptor is also coupled to inhibition of adenylyl cyclase and additionally it inhibits the soluble guanylyl cyclase pathway. In mice with a targeted deletion of the MT1 receptor, the acute inhibitory effects of melatonin on SCN multiunit activity are completely abolished, while the phase-shifting responses to melatonin (given in physiological concentrations) appear normal. Furthermore, melatonin inhibits the phosphorylation of the transcription factor cyclic AMP response element binding protein, induced by the pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide in SCN cells predominantly via the MT1 receptor. However, a functional MT2 receptor in the rodent SCN is partially able to compensate for the absence of the MT1 receptor in MT1 receptor-deficient mice. These findings indicate redundant and non-redundant roles of the receptor subtypes in regulating SCN function. In the PT, a functional MT1 receptor is essential for the rhythmic synthesis of the clock gene product mPER1. Melatonin produces a long-lasting sensitization of adenylyl cyclase and thus amplifies cyclic AMP signaling when melatonin levels decline at dawn. This action of melatonin amplifies gene expression rhythms in the PT and provides a mechanism for reinforcing rhythmicity in peripheral tissues which themselves lack the capacity for self-sustained oscillation. Mice with targeted deletion of melatonin receptor subtypes provide an excellent model to understand cellular mechanisms through which melatonin modulates circadian and photoperiodic rhythmicity.

DOI of Published Version



Cell Tissue Res. 2002 Jul;309(1):151-62. Epub 2002 May 18. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Cell and tissue research

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID