Abstract: Melatonin receptors were characterized in cultured neurons and photoreceptors prepared from chick embryo retina. Cultured cells contained high-affinity 2-[125I]iodomelatonin binding sites (KD = 41.6 pM), similar to those in intact retina. The effects of melatonin and related indoles on cyclic AMP accumulation were examined. Melatonin (10−7M) had no effect on basal or K+-stimulated cyclic AMP accumulation, but inhibited forskolin-stimulated cyclic AMP accumulation by approximately 50%. Melatonin inhibited forskolin-stimulated cyclic AMP accumulation in the presence or absence of the cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase inhibitor 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine, suggesting an effect on cyclic AMP synthesis rather than degradation. Half-maximal inhibition was observed at 5.9 × 10−10M melatonin. The relative order of potency among melatonin analogues was 2-iodomelatonin > melatonin ≈ 6-chloromelatonin ≥ 6-hydroxymelatonin > N-acetylserotonin ≈ 5-methoxytryptophol > serotonin. The EC50 value for inhibition of cyclic AMP accumulation by 2-iodomelatonin (36.7 pM) was comparable to the KD value for binding of the radioligand, suggesting that the binding sites represent functional receptors. The inhibitory effect of melatonin was antagonized by the putative melatonin antagonists luzindole, N-acetyltryptamine, and N-(2,4-dinitrophenyl)-5-methoxytryptamine, with estimated KB values of 0.12, 0.17, and 1 µM, respectively. At a concentration of 10 µM, N-(2,4-dinitrophenyl)-5-methoxytryptamine significantly inhibited forskolin-stimulated cyclic AMP accumulation when added alone; at 30 µM, luzindole and N-acetyltryptamine also had significant inhibitory effects. The inhibitory effect of melatonin was blocked by pretreatment with pertussis toxin. The results of this study indicate that melatonin receptors on retinal cells are coupled via inhibitory G proteins to cyclic AMP accumulation. Thus, some of the effects of melatonin on retinal physiology may be related to regulation of cyclic nucleotide metabolism.