Melatonin attenuates arsenite-induced apoptosis in rat brain: Involvement of mitochondrial and endoplasmic reticulum pathways and aggregation of α-synuclein

Anya M.Y. Lin, S. F. Fang, P. L. Chao, C. H. Yang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


In the present study, the protective effect of melatonin on sodium arsenite (arsenite)-induced apoptosis was investigated. Local infusion of arsenite elevated lipid peroxidation and depleted glutathione content in the infused substantia nigra (SN), as well as reduced striatal dopamine content. Systemic administration of melatonin diminished arsenite-induced oxidative injury. Furthermore, melatonin attenuated arsenite-induced increases in heat shock protein 70 and heme oxygenase-1 as well as phosphorylation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase and elevations in cyclooxygenase II and inducible nitric oxide synthase expression. Inhibition by melatonin of arsenite-induced apoptosis was determined by its attenuation of DNA fragmentation and terminal deoxytransferase-mediated dUTP-nick end labeling's positive cells in the infused SN of melatonin-treated rats. Melatonin reduced arsenite-induced apoptosis through mitochondrial and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) pathways. In the mitochondrial pathway, systemic melatonin inhibited arsenite-induced elevations in Bcl-2 and cytosolic cytochrome c as well as arsenite-induced reductions in procaspase-3 levels and elevations in active caspase-3 levels in the infused SN. Regarding the ER pathway, melatonin attenuated arsenite-induced elevations in activating transcription factor-4, CCAAT/enhancer binding protein (C/EBP) homologues protein, X-bon binding protein (XBP-1) and cytosolic immunoglobulin binding protein (BIP) as well as reductions in procaspase 12 levels. Moreover, aggregation of α-synuclein was reduced in the arsenite-infused SN of melatonin-treated rats. Our in vitro data showed that melatonin ameliorated arsenite-induced lipid peroxidation. Taken together, our data suggest that melatonin is neuroprotective against arsenite-induced oxidative injury in the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system of rat brain. Furthermore, the neuroprotective effects by melatonin on arsenite-induced apoptosis were mediated via inhibiting both mitochondrial and ER pathways. Accordingly, melatonin may be therapeutically useful for the treatment of arsenite-induced apoptosis in central nervous system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-171
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pineal Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2007


  • α-synuclein
  • Antioxidant
  • Apoptosis
  • Arsenite
  • Endoplasmic reticulum stress
  • Melatonin
  • Oxidative stress


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