An unexpected relationship


D. Acuña-Castroviejo, Departamento de Fisiología, Avenida de Madrid 11, E-18012 Granada, Spain. Fax: + 34 958 246295, Tel.: + 34 958 246631, E-mail:


Increasing evidence suggests that melatonin can exert some effect at nuclear level. Previous experiments using binding techniques clearly showed the existence of specific melatonin binding sites in cell nucleus of rat liver. To further identify these sites, nuclear extracts from rat hepatocytes were treated with different percentages of ammonium sulfate and purified by affinity chromatography. Subsequent ligand blot analysis shows the presence of two polypeptides of ≈ 60 and ≈ 74 kDa that bind specifically to melatonin. N-Terminal sequence analysis showed that the 60 kDa protein shares a high homology with rat calreticulin, whereas the 74 kDa protein shows no homology with any known protein. The binding of melatonin to calreticulin was further characterized incubating 2-[125I]melatonin with recombinant calreticulin. Binding kinetics show a Kd = 1.08 ± 0.2 nm and Bmax = 290 ± 34 fmol·mg protein−1, compatible with other binding sites of melatonin in the cell. The presence of calreticulin was further identified by Western blot analysis, and the lack of endoplasmic reticulum contamination in our material was assessed by Western blot and immunostaining with anti-calnexin Ig. The results suggest that calreticulin may represent a new class of high-affinity melatonin binding sites involved in some functions of the indoleamine including genomic regulation.