Individual and synergistic antioxidative actions of melatonin: studies with vitamin E, vitamin C, glutathione and desferrrioxamine (desferoxamine) in rat liver homogenates


Department of Cellular and Structural Biology, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Mail Code 7762, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio, TX 78229-3900, USA. E-mail:


The pharmacological effects of melatonin, vitamin E, vitamin C, glutathione and desferrioxamine (desferoxamine) alone and in combination on iron-induced membrane lipid damage in rat liver homogenates were examined by estimating levels of malondialdehyde and 4-hydroxyalkenals (MDA + 4-HDA). Individually, melatonin (2.5–1600 μM), vitamin E (0.5–50 μM), glutathione (100–7000 μM) and desferrioxamine (1–8 μM) inhibited lipid peroxidation in a concentration-dependent manner. Vitamin C had both a pro-oxidative (25–2000 μM) and an antioxidative (2600–5000 μM) effect. The IC50 (concentration that reduces damage by 50%) values were 4, 10, 426, 2290 and 4325 μM for vitamin E, desferrioxamine, melatonin, glutathione and vitamin C, respectively. The synergistic actions of melatonin with vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione were systematically investigated. When melatonin was combined with vitamin E, glutathione, or vitamin C, the protective effects against iron-induced lipid peroxidation were dramatically enhanced. Even though melatonin was added at very low concentrations, it still showed synergistic effects with other antioxidants at certain concentrations. Furthermore, melatonin not only reversed the pro-oxidative effects of vitamin C, but its efficacy in reducing lipid peroxidation was improved when it was combined with prooxidative concentrations of vitamin C. The results provide new information in terms of the possible pharmacological use of the combination of melatonin and classical antioxidants to treat free radical-related conditions.