Permeability of pure lipid bilayers to melatonin


Address reprint requests to M. Teresa Lamy-Freund, Instituto de Física, Universidade de Sño Paulo, CP 66318, CEP 05389-970, Sño Paulo, Brasil.


Abstract: Melatonin, the chief hormone of the pineal gland, has been reported to interact with a variety of different cells. This ubiquitously acting hormone has been found to interact with protein receptors both at the cell membrane and in the nucleus. Moreover, melatonin was recently shown to be a very potent hydroxyl radical scavenger. The present work focuses on the interaction of melatonin with pure lipid bilayers. It is shown that melatonin can cross multilamellar lipid vesicles, which are used here as model systems for the lipid phase of biological membranes. Thus, the data prove that melatonin can easily pass through the cell membrane and bath every part of the cell, as previously suggested in the literature. Melatonin lipid association constant was calculated based on the change of the hormone fluorescence intensity due to its penetration into the hydrophobic lipid phase. Though melatonin was recently shown to be highly soluble in aqueous media, its lipid association constant is rather high, indicating that the biological action of the hormone is likely to be at the membrane level, either via its interaction with membrane receptors, and/or as a lipoperoxidation radical scavenger.