Ultrastructural clues for the potent therapeutic effect of melatonin on aging skin in pinealectomized rats


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Recently we have reported a significant reduction in the thickness of epidermis and epidermis + dermis in the back, abdominal and thoracic skin of the long-term pinealectomized rats and the potent therapeutic effect of melatonin on the pinealectomy-induced morphometric changes. The present study was aimed to determine the fine structure of the abdominal and thoracic skin in pinealectomized rats and the effect of melatonin on skin ultrastructure. Rats were pinealectomized or sham operated (control) for 6 months. Half of the pinealectomized rats were treated with 4 mg/kg melatonin during the last month of the experiment. Pinealectomy resulted in prominent ultrastructural changes in the skin. Epidermal atrophy, disorganization and cytological atypia were obvious. Tonofilament distribution was not uniform, and intercellular space was narrow. Nuclear irregularity and heterochromatin condensation were detected. Many mitochondria were irregular and edematous with increased translucence of the matrix, either partial or total destruction of crests and frequently the presence of vacuoles, myelin figures and dense bodies. Microprojections of basal cells into the dermis were observed. The dermis was thin, and collagenous fibers were loosely arranged. The epidermis in melatonin administered pinealectomized rats was obviously thicker than that of pinealectomized rats. The cells of each layers had characteristic morphological and ultrastructural features. Nuclear irregularity and heterochromatin condensation were not seen. Mitochondria were generally normal in ultrastructural appearance but rarely vacuoles and myelin figures were observed. The dermis was thick, and collagenous fibers were closely packaged. This paper provides an additional ultrastructural evidence that the damage to mitochondria is the major contributory factor to skin aging and that melatonin has potent therapeutic effects in reducing age-related changes via protecting fine structure of the skin.