Buffalo, N.Y. -- University at Buffalo researchers have shown for the first time that melatonin, a hormone produced naturally by the pineal gland and used widely as a supplement to diminish jet lag and improve sleep patterns, may play an important role in promoting bone growth.
Results of the research appeared recently in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The study was conducted by Jerome A. Roth, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and Moon-Il Cho, Ph.D., professor of oral biology in the UB School of Dental Medicine.
By exposing mouse pre-osteoblasts and fully differentiated rat osteoblasts -- cells that produce and mineralize bone matrix components -- to melatonin, the researchers were able to show that normal body levels of the hormone speeded up the transformation of pre-osteoblasts to fully-differentiated osteoblasts, and induced both types of cells to produce increased amounts of several bone matrix proteins responsible for bone formation.
"After binding to its receptor on the cell surface, melatonin signals the cell to produce and mineralize bone matrix proteins," Roth said. "This has not been shown before. We are now investigating what cellular events are taking place to make this happen."
"We know melatonin decreases with age, and that bone loss, which can lead to osteoporosis, is an inevitable part of aging, especially among women," Cho said. "Can melatonin help prevent osteoporosis? Our research indicates it may have that potential."
Roth said human melatonin receptors are very similar to rat and mouse melatonin receptors, a characteristic that makes these cells a good model for human osteoblasts.
While the mechanism that allows melatonin to have an effect on bone
formation is still unclear, the UB researchers hypothesize it may involve an
intracellular second messenger called cyclic AMP.
Contact: Lois Baker
University at Buffalo