Melatonin Ameliorates Arsenite-Induced Neurotoxicity: Involvement of Autophagy and Mitochondria

Y. C. Teng, Y. I. Tai, H. J. Huang, A. M.Y. Lin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


In the present study, the neuroprotective effect of melatonin on arsenite-induced neurotoxicity was investigated in rat primary cultured cortical neurons. Incubation of melatonin prevented arsenite-induced neuronal cell loss in a concentration-dependent manner. Furthermore, melatonin significantly attenuated arsenite-induced elevation in microtubule-associated protein light chain 3 (LC3)-II levels, a biomarker of autophagy. Our fluorescent staining assay showed that melatonin decreased arsenite-induced elevation of co-localized fluorescent puncta of monodansylcadaverine (a specific marker of autophagic vacuoles) and lysotracker red (a specific marker of lysosomes), indicating that melatonin is capable of inhibiting arsenite-induced autophagy and autolysosome formation. Because 3-methyladenine (an autophagic inhibitor) attenuated the arsenite-reduced α-synuclein levels (a protein essential for the neurite outgrowth and synaptic plasticity), melatonin via inhibiting autophagy attenuated the arsenite-reduced α-synuclein levels. At the same time, melatonin ameliorated the arsenite-induced reduction in growth associated protein 43 (a hallmark protein of neurite outgrowth) and discontinuous neurites of rat primary cultured cortical neurons. In addition, melatonin was found to prevent arsenite-induced decreases in cytochrome c oxidase levels (a biomarker of mitochondrial mass) and elevation in co-localized fluorescent puncta of autolysosomes and cytochrome c oxidase. Moreover, melatonin prevented arsenite-induced reduction in peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma co-activator 1 α, a transcriptional co-activator of mitochondrial biosynthesis. Taken together, melatonin may exert its neuroprotective action via inhibiting arsenite-induced autophagy and enhancing mitochondrial biogenesis and thus restoring α-synuclein levels, neuronal integrity, and mitochondrial mass in rat primary cultured cortical neurons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1015-1022
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 4 Oct 2015


  • Arsenite
  • Autophagy
  • Melatonin
  • Mitochondria
  • α-synuclein


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