Melatonin regulates the respiratory burst of human neutrophils and their depolarization

Carlo Pieri, Rina Recchioni, Fausto Moroni, Fiorella Marcheselli, Maurizio Marra, Silvia Marinoni, Roberto Di Primio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The effect of different doses of melatonin on the respiratory burst as well as on the membrane potential changes of human neutrophils stimulated with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) was investigated. The intracellular production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in stimulated neutrophils was quantified in individual cells by flow cytometry, measuring the oxidation of nonfluorescent dihydrorhodamine 123 to the green fluorescent rhodamine 123. The transmembrane potential change was measured using the fluorescent probe oxonol. Preincubating the cells with micromolar concentrations of the indole resulted in an increase of the response to PMA. In two of six subjects investigated, the respiratory burst was also increased by a 10 nM concentration of the indole, but when the melatonin concentration was increased to 2 mM the respiratory burst was inhibited. The change in the transmembrane potential of neutrophils paralleled the respiratory burst. Indeed, the treatment of the cells with doses of melatonin up to 0.5 mM increased the depolarization occurring subsequent to PMA stimulation. whereas 2 mM melatonin concentration decreased the extent of depolarization. To investigate whether melatonin could directly affect the transmembrane potential changes of neutrophils, the extent of depolarization, induced by increasing the extracellular potassium concentration, was measured in cells preincubated with 2 mM melatonin. This treatment resulted in a decrease of the extent of depolarization, which suggests that melatonin can directly alter membrane ion conductance in human neutrophils.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-49
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pineal Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • Melatonin
  • Membrane potential
  • Neutrophils
  • Respiratory burst

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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