Melatonin Assays in Body Fluids

  • J. Arendt
Conference paper
Part of the Journal of Neural Transmission book series (NEURAL SUPPL, volume 13)


A variety of methods now exist for the assay of melatonin in body fluids. Their relative merits are compared and the validation of one in particular (RIA) described.

Physiological studies of melatonin by RIA have shown probable modulation of its secretion by gonadal steroids. The circadian activity maximum in the dark phase of one of the pineal melatonin synthesizing enzymes, N-acetyltransferase, is reflected in peripheral melatonin levels. Man, like all other species studied so far, has a dark phase rise in circulating melatonin. During the menstrual cycle, melatonin shows a luteal phase rise. Further evidence of pineal rhythmicity is found in seasonal melatonin variations in man. The study of the rhythmic properties of peripheral melatonin in man may provide important information on central nervous function.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arendt, J., Paunier, L., Sizonenko, P. C.: Melatonin radioimmunoassay. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 40, 347–350 (1975).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Arendt, J., Wetterberg, L., Heyden, T., Sizonenko, P. C., Paunier, L.: Radioimmunoassay of melatonin: human serum and cerebrospinal fluid. Hormone Res. 8, 65–75 (1977).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Axelrod, J., Weissbach, H.: Enzymatic O-methylation of N-acetyl serotonin to melatonin. Science 131, 1312 (1960).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Eastwood, M. R., Peacocke, J.: Seasonal patterns of suicide, depression and electroconvulsive therapy. Brit. J. Psychiat. 129, 472–475 (1976).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Fernstrom, J. D., Wurtman, R. J.: Brain serotonin content: physiological dependence on plasma tryptophan levels. Science 173, 149–152 (1971).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Haussen, T., Heyden, T., Sundberg, I., Wetterberg, L.: Effect of Propranolol on serum melatonin. Lancet ii, 309 (1977).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hedlund, L., Lischko, M. M., Rollag, M. D., Niswender, G. D.: Melatonin: daily cycle in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid of calves. Science 195, 686–687 (1977).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Howd, R. A., Seo, K. S., Wurtman, R. J.: Rat liver N-acetyl transferase: inhibition by melatonin. Biochem. Pharmacol. 25, 977–978 (1976).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Jimerson, D. C., Lynch, H. J., Post, R. M., Wurtman, R. J., Bunney, W. E.: Urinary melatonin rhythm during sleep deprivation in depressed patients and normals. Life Sci. 20, 1501–1508 (1977).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Kennaway, D. J., Frith, E. G., Phillipon, G., Matthews, C., Seamark, R. F.: A specific radioimmunoassay for melatonin in biological tissues and fluids and its validation by gas-chromatography-mass-spectrometry. Endocrinology 101, 119–123 (1977).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Lerner, A. B., Case, J. D., Takahashi, Y., Lee, T. H., Mori, W.: Isolation of melatonin, the pineal factor that lightens melanocytes. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 80, 2587 (1958).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Levine, L., Riceberg, L. J.: Radioimmunoassay for melatonin. Res. Commun. Chem. Path. 10, 693–702 (1975).Google Scholar
  13. Lynch, H. J., Wurtman, R. J., Moskowitz, M. A., Archer, M. C., Ho, M. H.: Daily rhythm in human urinary melatonin. Science 187, 169–171 (1975).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Minneman, K. P., Wurtman, R. J.: The pharmacology of the pineal gland. Ann. Rev. Pharmacol. Toxicol. 16, 33–51 (1976).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Moore, R. V., Klein, D. C.: Visual pathways and the central neural control of a circadian rhythm in pineal serotonin N-acetyl transferase. Brain Res. 71, 17–33 (1974).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Ozaki, Y., Lynch, H. J.: Presence of melatonin in plasma and urine of pinealectomized rats. Endocrinology 99, 641–644 (1976).PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Pang, S. F., Brown, G. M., Grota, L. J., Rodman, R. L.: Radioimmunoassay of melatonin in pineal glands, harderian glands, retinas and sera of rats or chickens. Fed. Proc. Fed. Am. Socs. exp. Biol. 35, 691 (1976).Google Scholar
  18. Reiter, R.: Comparative physiology: pineal gland. Ann. Rev. Physiol. 35, 305–328 (1973).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Rollag, M. D., Niswender, G. D.: Radioimmunoassay of serum concentrations of melatonin in sheep exposed to different lighting regimes. Endocrinology 98, 482–489 (1976).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Rollag, M. D., Niswender, G. D.: Route of melatonin secretion in sheep. Abstracts of 59th Meeting of the Endocrine Society, 1977, no. 393, p. 253.Google Scholar
  21. Smith, I., Mullen, P. E., Silman, R. E., Sneddon, W., Wilson, B. W.: Absolute identification of melatonin in human plasma and cerebrospinal fluid. Nature 260, 718–719 (1976).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Smith, J. A., Mee, T. J. X., Barnes, N. D.: Melatonin in serum and cerebrospinal fluid. Lancet ii, 425 (1976).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Tamarkin, L., Westrom, W. K., Hamili, A. I., Goldman, B. D.: Effect of melatonin on the reproductive systems of male and female Syrian hamsters: a diurnal rhythm in sensitivity to melatonin. Endocrinology 99, 1534–1541 (1976).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Weissbach, H., Redfield, B. G., Axelrod, J.: Biosynthesis of melatonin: enzymic conversion of serotonin to N-acetyl serotonin. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 43, 352–353 (1960).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Wetterberg, L., Arendt, J., Paunier, L., Sizonenko, P. C., van Donselaar, W., Heyden, T.: Human serum melatonin changes during the menstrual cycle. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 42, 185–188 (1976).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Wetterberg, L.: Melatonin in serum. Nature 269, 646 (1977).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Wilkinson, M., Arendt, J., Ziegler, D. de, Ruf, K. B.: Changes in sensitivity of pinealocyte β-receptors during precocious sexual maturation or after post-natal sterilization with estrogen in the female rat. Ann. Biol. anim. Biochim. Biophys. 16, 457–464 (1976).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Wilkinson, M., Arendt, J., Bradtke, J., Ziegler, D. de.: Determination of dark-induced elevation of pineal N-acetyl transferase activity with simultaneous radioimmunoassay of melatonin in pineal, serum, and pituitary of the male rat. J. Endocrinol. 72, 243–244 (1977).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Wilkinson, M., Arendt, J.: Effects of oestrogen and progesterone on rat pineal N-acetyl transferase activity and melatonin production. Experientia (1978) in press.Google Scholar
  30. Wirz-Justice, A., Feer, H., Richter, R.: Circannual rhythm in human plasma free and total tryptophan, platelet serotonin, monoamine oxidase activity and protein. Chronobiologia 4, 165 (1977).Google Scholar
  31. Wurtman, R. J., Axelrod, J., Phillips, L. S.: Melatonin synthesis in the pineal gland: control by light. Science 142, 1071–1073 (1963).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Wurtman, R. J., Moskowitz, M. A.: The Pineal Organ part I. New Engl. J. Med. 296, 1329–1333 (1977).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Wurzburger, R. J., Kaneashima, K., Miller, R. L., Spector, S.: Determination of rat pineal gland melatonin content by a radioimmunoassay. Life Sci. 18, 867–877 (1976).CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Arendt
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of Clinical Biochemistry, Department of BiochemistryUniversity of SurreyGuildford, SurreyUK
  2. 2.Department of Paediatrics and GeneticsGeneva School of MedicineGenevaSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations