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Melatonin: An Established Antioxidant Worthy of Use in Clinical Trials

Oxidative stress plays a key role in the pathogenesis of aging and many metabolic diseases; therefore, an effective antioxidant therapy would be of great importance in these circumstances. Nutritional, environmental, and chemical factors can induce the overproduction of the superoxide anion radical in both the cytosol and mitochondria. This is the first and key event that leads to the activation of pathways involved in the development of several metabolic diseases that are related to oxidative stress. As oxidation of essential molecules continues, it turns to nitrooxidative stress because of the involvement of nitric oxide in pathogenic processes. Once peroxynitrite forms, it damages via two distinctive mechanisms. First, it has direct toxic effects leading to lipid peroxidation, protein oxidation, and DNA damage. This mechanism involves the induction of several transcription factors leading to cytokine-induced chronic inflammation. Classic antioxidants, including vitamins A, C, and E, have often failed to exhibit beneficial effects in metabolic diseases and aging. Melatonin is a multifunctional indolamine that counteracts virtually all pathophysiologic steps and displays significant beneficial actions against peroxynitrite-induced cellular toxicity. This protection is related to melatonin′s antioxidative and antiinflammatory properties. Melatonin has the capability of scavenging both oxygen- and nitrogen based reactants, including those formed from peroxynitrite, and blocking transcriptional factors, which induce proinflammatory cytokines. Accumulating evidence suggests that this nontoxic indolamine may be useful either as a sole treatment or in conjunction with other treatments for inhibiting the biohazardous actions of nitrooxidative stress.

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