Inhibitory effect of melatonin on cataract formation in newborn rats: evidence for an antioxidative role for melatonin.


Abe M, Reiter RJ, Orhii PB, Hara M, Poeggeler B.




J Pineal Res


We evaluated the inhibitory effect of melatonin, a recently discovered scavenger of free radicals, on cataract formation in the newborn rat. The glutathione synthesis inhibitor, buthionine sulfoximine (BSO) (3 mmol/kg), was intraperitoneally injected into newborn rats for 3 consecutive days starting on day 2 after birth. These glutathione depleted rats develop cataracts. Melatonin (4 mg/kg) was injected intraperitoneally into half of the rats once a day beginning at day 2 after birth; the other half of the animals received solvent daily. The incidence of cataract was observed on day 16, after the eyes of the newborn animals had opened. Both reduced glutathione (GSH) and oxidized glutathione (GSSG) levels were measured. Cataracts were observed in all animals (18/18) treated with BSO plus solvent. The incidence of the cataract in the animals cotreated with melatonin was only 6.2% (1/15). Total lenticular glutathione (GSH + GSSG) levels in BSO only treated rats were reduced by 97%. The total glutathione in the lens of the BSO plus melatonin group was significantly higher (by 3%) than that of the BSO only group. The percentage of the total glutathione as GSSG for the BSO plus solvent group was higher than the control value. Cotreatment of BSO injected rats with melatonin (4 mg/kg/day) clearly reduced cataract formation proving that it is directly or indirectly protective against oxidative stress which accompanies glutathione deficiency. The inhibitory effects of melatonin on cataract formation in this study could be due to melatonin's free radical scavenging activity or due to its stimulatory effect on glutathione production.