• 3T3-L1 cells;
  • aromatase;
  • breast cancer;
  • melatonin;
  • pineal gland

Abstract:  Melatonin inhibits the genesis and growth of breast cancer by interfering at different levels in the estrogen-signaling pathways. Melatonin inhibits aromatase activity and expression in human breast cancer cells, thus behaving as a selective estrogen enzyme modulator. As the adipose tissue adjacent to the tumor seems to account for most aromatase expression and enzyme activity in breast tumors and also mediates the desmoplastic reaction or accumulation of undifferentiated fibroblasts around malignant epithelial cells, in this work, we studied the effects of melatonin on the conversion of preadipocytes (3T3-L1) into adipocytes and on the capability of these cells to synthesize estrogens by regulating the expression and enzyme activity of aromatase, one of the main enzymes that participates in the synthesis of estrogens in the peritumoral adipose tissue. Thus, in both differentiating and differentiated 3T3-L1 adipocytes, high concentrations of melatonin increased intracytoplasmic triglyceride accumulation, an indicator of adipogenic differentiation. Melatonin (1 mm) significantly increased the expression of both CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein α and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ, two main regulators of terminal adipogenesis, in 3T3-L1 cells. The presence of melatonin during differentiation also induced a parallel reduction in aromatase expression and activity and expression of the cells. The effects of melatonin were reversed by luzindole, a melatonin receptor antagonist, indicating that melatonin acts through known receptor-mediated mechanisms. These findings suggest that, in human breast tumors, melatonin could stimulate the differentiation of fibroblasts and reduce the aromatase activity and expression in both fibroblasts and adipocytes, thereby reducing the number of estrogen-producing cells proximal to malignant cells.