Molecular and cellular endocrinology

Melatonin and its metabolites accumulate in the human epidermis in vivo and inhibit proliferation and tyrosinase activity in epidermal melanocytes in vitro.

PMID 25168391


Melatonin and its metabolites including 6-hydroxymelatonin (6(OH)M), N(1)-acetyl-N(2)-formyl-5-methoxykynuramine (AFMK) and 5-methoxytryptamine (5MT) are endogenously produced in human epidermis. This production depends on race, gender and age. The highest melatonin levels are in African-Americans. In each racial group they are highest in young African-Americans [30-50 years old (yo)], old Caucasians (60-90 yo) and Caucasian females. AFMK levels are the highest in African-Americans, while 6(OH)M and 5MT levels are similar in all groups. Testing of their phenotypic effects in normal human melanocytes show that melatonin and its metabolites (10(-5) M) inhibit tyrosinase activity and cell growth, and inhibit DNA synthesis in a dose dependent manner with 10(-9) M being the lowest effective concentration. In melanoma cells, they inhibited cell growth but had no effect on melanogenesis, except for 5MT which enhanced L-tyrosine induced melanogenesis. In conclusion, melatonin and its metabolites [6(OH)M, AFMK and 5MT] are produced endogenously in human epidermis and can affect melanocyte and melanoma behavior.