Mechanisms involved in the pro-apoptotic effect of melatonin in cancer cells

Carmen Rodriguez, Vanesa Martín, Federico Herrera, Guillermo García-Santos, Jezabel Rodriguez-Blanco, Sara Casado-Zapico, Ana María Sánchez-Sánchez, Santos Suárez, Noelia Puente-Moncada, María José Anítua, Isaac Antolín

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


It is well established that melatonin exerts antitumoral effects in many cancer types, mostly decreasing cell proliferation at low concentrations. On the other hand, induction of apoptosis by melatonin has been described in the last few years in some particular cancer types. The cytotoxic effect occurs after its administration at high concentrations, and the molecular pathways involved have been only partially determined. Moreover, a synergistic effect has been found in several cancer types when it is administered in combination with chemotherapeutic agents. In the present review, we will summarize published work on the pro-apoptotic effect of melatonin in cancer cells and the reported mechanisms involved in such action. We will also construct a hypothesis on how different cell signaling pathways may relate each other on account for such effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6597-6613
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


  • Apoptosis
  • Cancer cells
  • Melatonin
  • ROS


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