The objective of this study was to examine the in vivo effect of melatonin on rat mitochondrial liver respiration. Two experiments were performed: For experiment 1, adult male rats received melatonin in the drinking water (16 or 50 µg/ml) or vehicle during 45 days. For experiment 2, rats received melatonin in the drinking water (50 µg/ml) for 45 days, or the same amount for 30 days followed by a 15 day-withdrawal period. At sacrifice, a liver mitochondrial fraction was prepared and oxygen consumption was measured polarographically in the presence of excess concentration of DL-3-β-hydroxybutyrate or L-succinate. Melatonin treatment decreased Krebs’ cycle substrate-induced respiration significantly at both examined doses. The stimulation of mitochondrial respiration caused by excess concentration of substrate recovered after melatonin withdrawal. Basal state 4 respiration was not modified by melatonin. Melatonin, by curtailing overstimulation of cellular respiration caused by excess Krebs’ cycle substrates, can protect the mitochondria from oxidative damage.