A new study shows the multiple roles that melatonin plays in “torpor,” an energy-conserving state similar to short-term hibernation.

“For the first time, we can say that endogenous melatonin is involved in the modulation of these physiological functions,” says Margarita Dubocovich, a senior and co-corresponding author on the paper and SUNY Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB. Takaoki Kasahara of RIKEN is co-corresponding author on the paper.

“All species that ever existed continue to synthesize melatonin in the pineal gland, retina and a number of peripheral tissues and organelles such as in mitochondria, where it signals through receptor-mediated pathways and often functions as a receptor-independent antioxidant,” Dubocovich explains.

It is well recognized that in both animals and humans, melatonin participates in regulating sleep, modulating circadian rhythms, enhancing immunity and acting as a multifunctional anti-cancer agent through actions on its G-protein coupled receptors while retaining the ability to act as a free radical scavenger, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.”

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