New paradigms in chronic intestinal inflammation and colon cancer: role of melatonin


Address reprint requests to Virginia Motilva, Department of Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy, University of Seville, c. Prof. García Gonzalez nº 2, 41012 Seville, Spain.


Abstract:  In intestinal bowel disease (IBD), immune-mediated conditions exert their effects through various cells and proinflammatory mediators. Recent data support a participation of the endoplasmic reticulum stress and mitochondrial dysfunctions in IBD. Moreover, it is evident that chronic degenerative pathologies, including IBD, share comparable disease mechanisms with alteration in the autophagy mechanisms. Chronic inflammation in IBD exposes these patients to a number of signals known to have tumorigenic effects. This circuitry of inflammation and cancer modifies apoptosis and autophagy, and promotes cellular cycle progression, invasion, and angiogenesis. Melatonin has been shown as a specific antioxidant reducing oxidative damage in both lipid and aqueous cell environments. However, several studies provide further insight into the molecular mechanisms of melatonin action in the colon. In this line, recent data suggest that melatonin modulates autophagy and sirtuin activity. An anti-autophagic property of melatonin has been demonstrated, and it could contribute to its anti-oncogenic activity. Nevertheless, there is no information about whether antitumoral effects of melatonin on colon cancer are dependent on autophagy. Sirtuins have pleiotropic effects on cancer development, being reported both as facilitator and as suppressor of colon cancer development. Sirtuins and melatonin are connected through the circadian clock machinery, and melatonin seems able to correct the alterations in sirtuin activity associated with several pathological conditions. Autophagy and sirtuin activities are linked through 5′AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) activation, which switches on autophagy and increases sirtuin. The effect of melatonin on AMPK and the impact of this effect on IBD and colon cancer remain an open question.