Home | About us | Editorial board | Search | Ahead of print | Current issue | Archives | Submit article | Instructions | Subscribe | Contacts | Advertise | Login 
Search Article 
Advanced search 
  Users Online: 1235 Home Print this page Email this page Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size  

Table of Contents
Year : 2012  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 192-194

The reno-pineal axis: A novel role for melatonin

1 Department of Endocrinology, Bharti Hospital and B.R.I.D.E, Karnal, Haryana, India
2 Department of Gynaecology, Medical College, Gwalior, India
3 Department of Nephrology, Osmania Medical College, Hyderabad, India

Date of Web Publication13-Mar-2012

Correspondence Address:
Sanjay Kalra
Department of Endocrinology, Bharti Hospital and B.R.I.D.E, Karnal, Haryana
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2230-8210.93735

Rights and Permissions

The pineal gland is a tiny endocrine gland whose physiologic role has been the focus of much research and much more speculation over the past century. This mini-review discusses recent findings which correlate melatonin and renal physiology, and postulates the presence of a "reno-pineal axis." Drawing lessons from comparative endocrinology, while quoting human data, it advocates the need to study the "reno-pineal axis" in greater detail.

Keywords: Kidney, melatonin, pineal, renal endocrinology, reno-pineal axis

How to cite this article:
Kalra S, Agrawal S, Sahay M. The reno-pineal axis: A novel role for melatonin. Indian J Endocr Metab 2012;16:192-4

How to cite this URL:
Kalra S, Agrawal S, Sahay M. The reno-pineal axis: A novel role for melatonin. Indian J Endocr Metab [serial online] 2012 [cited 2021 Jun 15];16:192-4. Available from: https://www.ijem.in/text.asp?2012/16/2/192/93735

   Introduction Top

The pineal gland is a small, single endocrine organ located near the center of the brain. Derived from the diencephalon, it shares its origin with the lateral eyes and the hypothalamus. This common embryological source allows these organs to work together as a photoneuroendocrine system which follows a distinct endogenous, rhythmic, and circadian pattern. [1]

L-tryptophan, an essential amino acid, is converted to serotonin with the help of the enzymes tryotophan hydroxylase and 5-hydroxytryptophan decarboxylase. Serotonin levels increase on exposure to light and decrease during the dark because it is converted to melatonin during the dark phase. Formation of melatonin occurs mainly not only in the pineal gland, but also in the retina, and is catalyzed by N-acetyltransferase and hydroxyindole-O-methyl transferase enzymes. The hormone is secreted directly into the bloodstream and cerebrospinal fluid upon synthesis. Physiologically, melatonin secretion increases about 2 hours after bed time and decreases by morning. It is inactivated in the liver to 6-hydroxyl melatonin, which is excreted into urine and feces as sulfate and glucuronide conjugates. A small percentage (2-3%) is excreted as melatonin in the urine. [1]

In the newborn, it takes 9-12 weeks for melatonin secretion to begin. Levels reach their highest peak at 1-3 years and then fall at puberty, decreasing gradually thereafter.

Though substantial inter-individual variability in melatonin levels is noted, the age-related declining trend is observed consistently. This may be because of greater volume of distribution due to increasing body mass in childhood and early adult life, decreased production because of pineal calcification, and reduced sympathetic innervations of the pineal gland, without which melatonin cannot be secreted. [1],[2]

Melatonin reaches every cell of the body due to its highly lipophilic nature. The receptors MT1 and MT2 are G protein-coupled receptors which are present in many body tissues, including the pituitary hormone and kidney. [2]

   Renal Effects of Melatonin Top

While the physiologic functions of melatonin related to regulation of sleep, reproduction, and thermoregulation have been documented for long, its effects on renal function are being discovered only now. [3],[4] That melatonin acts upon the kidney has been proven by numerous experimental and human data. Melatonin seems to work through multiple pathways: as an antioxidant, as an apoptosis modulator, and as a circadian modulator of vascular function.

This review focuses only on the renal effects and correlations of melatonin, based on animal and human data, and tries to build the case for the presence of a reno-pineal axis. It does not try to discuss other novel aspects of melatonin physiology, which have been covered elsewhere. [4]

   Effects on Reactive Oxygen Species Top

Development of diabetic nephropathy has been found to be linked with decrease in melatonin-induced reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation and mitochondrial complex-3 (MC-3) activity. Melatonin may contribute to the regulation of mitochondrial complexes, and its deficiency may lead to differential regulation of the MC-1 and MC-3 proteins in the renal mitochondria. [5] This in turn may lead to an imbalance in ROS generation. This is a potential pathway for the reno-pineal axis. This hypothesis is supported by findings from various researchers who have found beneficial effects of melatonin on renal injury caused by FK506, colistin radiocontrast, and lead, amongst others [6],[7],[8],[9] FK506 is a melatonin agonist which provided a suitable animal model to study the effects of melatonin on oxidative stress.

The antioxidant effect of melatonin is not limited to the kidney. The hormone has been found to increase the gene expression for antioxidant enzyme in the rat brain, improve insulin sensitivity, and have multiple beneficial effects in metabolic syndrome. [4],[10]

   Effects on Cell Proliferation Top

Melatonin has been proposed to have beneficial effects on cell proliferation by reducing the apoptosis of healthy cells, while enhancing the apoptosis of malignant cells. This aspect of pineal physiology has been studied in the kidney as well. Studies have been done on renal carcinoma cells, which show that melatonin sensitizes these cells to apoptosis. [11],[12] On the other hand, it markedly slows the progression of renal damage in rats with renal mass reduction (surgical ablation). [13] Melatonin has been shown to attenuate oxaliplatin-induced apoptosis in cancer cells by inhibiting glutathione (GSH) depletion and Mcl-1 downregulation. [12]

   Effects on Vascular Flow Top

These effects are linked to melatonin's actions upon the vascular bed. Melatonin levels have been shown to be inversely related with ambient blood pressure. This was observed using urinary melatonin levels in a cohort of young women. [14] Similar findings were noted in non-dipper hypertensive men and women, who had low or nocturnal secretion of the hormone. [15] These observations translated into an interventional trial in which prolonged melatonin administration decreased nocturnal blood pressure in women. [16]

While this may appear simplistic, a recent study has been found to have differential effect on various vascular beds. It reduces renal blood flow, which may impact the so called reno-pineal interaction. [17]

A therapeutic role for melatonin has been suggested, based on its beneficial role in ischemia reperfusion injury in renal grafts. [18)]

   Effect on Tubular Function Top

Most renal functions, including glomerular filtration rate, urine production, and solute excretion, exhibit circadian changes. There is an increase in the concentration of urine during the nocturnal period, which may be mediated by melatonin, i.e. the pineal gland. In healthy humans, nocturnal excretion rates of sodium, potassium, chloride, and urate are only 50% of the rates observed during the light period, [19] whereas phosphate reabsorption at night exceeds that during the day. [20] Further, administration of melatonin to hamsters decreases urinary sodium and potassium concentrations as well as urine osmolality [21] MR are predominantly localized in the proximal tubular segments. This localization suggests that melatonin probably influences renal function through regulation of proximal tubular function.

Melatonin has been found to reduce renal blood flow, which may in some way explain the effects on renal physiology. [22]

   Effect on Nephrolithiasis Top

In tandem, the above mentioned effects may have an impact on the occurrence of renal colic in patients predisposed to the condition. A retrospective study of 1481 Iranian patients with renal colic revealed a higher frequency in the middle of the lunar month (days 14-17) and the lowest frequency of hospital admission during the extreme days of the lunar month. [23]

It has been proposed that the predisposition to renal calculi is linked with abnormalities of the melatonin receptor 1A (MTNR 1A) gene, which is associated with calcium metabolism. [24]

Melatonin also has a potential therapeutic role in nephrolithiasis, as it protects against shock wave associated renal damage during lithotripsy. [25]

   Effects on Proteinuria Top

The renal spectrum of the reno-pineal axis encompasses interstitial, tubular, as well as glomerular function. Human studies have shown impairment of endogenous circadian melatonin secretion in chronic kidney disease (CKD). [24] While the exact cause and effect relationship is unclear, the impairment is related to the degree of CKD and worsens with progression of CKD. [26]

Animal studies have demonstrated the utility of melatonin in reducing inflammation and proteinuria, as well as retarding progression of renal failure. While this has been shown only in surgically induced renal ablation, in rat models, it holds a promise for therapeutic use of melatonin in CKD in humans. [13] The drug may have a role in managing sleep disturbances seen in patients on chronic dialysis therapy.

   Pharmacologic Studies Top

Few pharmacologic studies have been performed using melatonin. This is surprising, considering the fact that it is easily available, easy to administer, and is an economical drug with a wide array of potential activity. However, the lack of patent protection discourages pharmaceutical majors from funding research on melatonin.

   Conclusion Top

The pineal gland seems to be linked with renal physiology through the pleiotropic actions of melatonin. The exact mechanism of the reno-pineal axis is yet to be delineated. However, association of melatonin with ROS, renal cell apoptosis, renal cell mass, glomerular function, tubular function, as well as vascular function indicates that the reno-pineal link is a multifaceted one. More work needs to be done to elucidate the physiologic and biochemical details of the reno-pineal axis so as to harness the therapeutic potential of this hormone.

   References Top

1.Reppert SM. Melatonin receptors: Molecular biology of a new family of G protein-coupled receptors. J Biol Rhythms 1997;12:528-31.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Zhdanova IV, Wurtman RJ. The pineal hormone (melatonin). In: Melmed S, Conn PM, editors. Endocrinology: Basic and clinical principles. 2 nd ed. Totowa, New Jersey: Humane Press; 2005. p. 255-66.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Zimecki M. The lunar cycle: Effects on human and animal behaviour and physiology. Postepy Hig Med Dosw 2006;60:1-7.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Reiter RJ, Coto-Montes A, Boga JA, Fuentes-Broto L, Rosales-Corral S, Tan DX. Melatonin: New applications in clinical and veterinary medicine, plant physiology and industry. Neuro Endocrinol Lett 2011;32:575-87.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Zhang H, Zhang HM, Wu LP, Tan DX, Kamat A, Li YQ, et al. Impaired mitochondrial complex III and melatonin responsive reactive oxygen species generation in kidney mitochondria of db/db mice. J Pineal Res 2011;51:338-44.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Ara C, Dirican A, Unal B, Karabulut AB, Piskin T. The effect of melatonin against FK506-induced renal oxidative stress in rats. Surg Innov 2011;18:34-8.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Yousef JM, Chen G, Hill PA, Nation RL, Li J. Melatonin attenuates colistin-induced nephrotoxicity in rats. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 2011;55:4044-9.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Alabbassi MG, Hussain SA, Ali SH. Therapeutic effects of melatonin in lead-induced toxicity in rats. Iraqi J Pharm Sci 2008;17:47-54.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Bayýr A, Kara H, Kýyýcý A, Kýyýcý H, Ahmet AK. The effects of melatonin on oxidative stress markers in an animal model of radiocontrast-induced nephropathy. Biomed Res 2011;22:311-8.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Kotler M, Rodriguez C, Sainz RM, Antolin I, Menendez-Pelaez A. Melatonin increases gene expression for antioxidant enzymes in rat brain cortex. J Pineal Res 1998;24:83-9.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Um HJ, Park JW, Kwon TK. Melatonin sensitizes Caki renal cancer cells to kahweol-induced apoptosis through CHOP-mediated up-regulation of PUMA. J Pineal Res 2011;50:359-66.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Um HJ, Kwon TK. Protective effect of melatonin on oxaliplatin-induced apoptosis through sustained Mcl-1 expression and anti-oxidant action in renal carcinoma Caki cells. J Pineal Res 2010;49:283-90.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Quiroz Y, Ferrebuz A, Romero F, Vazirir ND, Rodriquez-Iturbe B. Melatonin ameliorates oxidative stress, inflammation, proteinuria, and progression of renal damage in rats with renal mass reduction. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol 2008;294:F336-44.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Forman JP, Curhan GC, Schernhammer ES. Urinary melatonin and risk of incident hypertension among young women. J Hypertens 2010;28:446-51.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Jonas M, Garfinkel D, Zisapel N, Laudon M, Grossman E. Impaired nocturnal melatonin secretion in non-dipper hypertensive patients. Blood Press 2003;12:19-24.  Back to cited text no. 15
16.Cagnacci A, Cannoletta M, Renzi A, Baldassari F, Arangino S, Volpe A. Prolonged melatonin administration decreases nocturnal blood pressure in women. Am J Hypertens 2005;18:1614-8.  Back to cited text no. 16
17.Cook JS, Sauder CL, Ray CA. Melatonin differentially affects vascular blood flow in humans. Am J Physiol Heart 2011;300:H670-4.  Back to cited text no. 17
18.Sahna E, Parlakpinar H, Ozturk F, Cigremis Y, Acet A. The protective effects of physiological and pharmacological concentrations of melatonin on renal ischemia-reperfusion injury in rats. Urological Research 2003: 31 (3): 188-193.  Back to cited text no. 18
19.Koopman. M. C., Koomen, G. C., van Acker, B.A., and Arisz, L. (1994) Urinary sodium excretion in patients with nephrotic syndrome, and its circadian variation. Q.J. Med.1994: 87, 109-117  Back to cited text no. 19
20.Kemp, G. J., Blumsohn, A., and Morris, B. W. (1992) Circadian changesin plasma phosphate concentration, urinary phosphate excretion, and cellular phosphate shifts. Clin. Chem. 38, 400-402  Back to cited text no. 20
21.Richardson, B. A. Studier, E. H., Stallone, J. N., and Kennedy, C. M.(1992) Effects of melatonin (in water metabolism and renal function in male Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus). J. Pineal Res. 13, 49-59.  Back to cited text no. 21
22.Boari B, Manfredini R. Circadian rhythm and renal colic. Recenti Prog Med 2003;94:191-3.  Back to cited text no. 22
23.Ghalae HM, Zare S, Choopanloo M, Rahimian R. The lunar cycle. Effects of full moon on renal colic. Urol J 2011;8:137-40.  Back to cited text no. 23
24.Esposito T, Rendina D, Aloia A, Formicola D, Magliocca S, De Filippo G, et al. The Melatonin Receptor 1A (MTNR1A) gene is associated with recurrent and idiopathic calcium nephrolithiasis. Nephrol Dial Transplant 2011. [In press]  Back to cited text no. 24
25.Serel TA, Ozguner F, Soyupek F. Prevention of shock wave-induced renal oxidative stress by melatonin: an experimental study. Urological Research 2004:32:69-71.  Back to cited text no. 25
26.Koch BC, van der Putten K, Van Someren EJ, Wielders JP, ter Wee PM, Nagtegaal JE, et al. Impairment of endogenous melatonin rhythm is related to the degree of chronic kidney disease (CREAM study). Nephrol Dial Transplant 2010;25:513-9.  Back to cited text no. 26

This article has been cited by
1 The effect of melatonin on cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity: a pilot, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial
Elliyeh Ghadrdan,Sanambar Sadighi,Sholeh Ebrahimpour,Alireza Abdollahi,Molouk Hadjibabaei,Kheirollah Gholami,Zahra Jahangard-Rafsanjani
European Journal of Integrative Medicine. 2020; : 101065
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Eco-Citizen Science for Social Good: Promoting Child Well-Being, Environmental Justice, and Inclusion
Karen E. Makuch,Miriam R. Aczel
Research on Social Work Practice. 2020; 30(2): 219
[Pubmed] | [DOI]

Contribution of Home and School Environment in Children’s Food Choice and Overweight/Obesity Prevalence in African Context: Evidence for Creating Enabling Healthful Food Environment

Renatha Pacific,Haikael Martin,Kissa Kulwa,Pammla Petrucka
Pediatric Health, Medicine and Therapeutics. 2020; Volume 11: 283
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
4 Salt Loading Aggravates the Relationship between Melatonin and Proteinuria in Patients With Chronic Kidney Disease
Naro Ohashi,Sayaka Ishigaki,Shinsuke Isobe,Takashi Matsuyama,Taichi Sato,Tomoyuki Fujikura,Takayuki Tsuji,Akihiko Kato,Hideo Yasuda
Internal Medicine. 2019;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
5 Impaired endogenous nighttime melatonin secretion relates to intrarenal renin–angiotensin system activation and renal damage in patients with chronic kidney disease
Sayaka Ishigaki,Naro Ohashi,Shinsuke Isobe,Naoko Tsuji,Takamasa Iwakura,Masafumi Ono,Yukitoshi Sakao,Takayuki Tsuji,Akihiko Kato,Hiroaki Miyajima,Hideo Yasuda
Clinical and Experimental Nephrology. 2016;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
6 Higher Household Income and the Availability of Electronic Devices and Transport at Home Are Associated with Higher Waist Circumference in Colombian Children: The ACFIES Study
Diego Gómez-Arbeláez,Paul Camacho,Daniel Cohen,Katherine Rincón-Romero,Laura Alvarado-Jurado,Sandra Pinzón,John Duperly,Patricio López-Jaramillo
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2014; 11(2): 1834
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
7 Current management of patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
Elzafir Elsheikh,Linda L Henry,Zobair M Younossi
Expert Review of Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2013; 8(6): 549
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Access Statistics
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this article
    Renal Effects of...
    Effects on React...
    Effects on Cell ...
    Effects on Vascu...
    Effect on Tubula...
    Effect on Nephro...
    Effects on Prote...
    Pharmacologic St...

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded441    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 7    

Recommend this journal