Melatonin and Tryptophan Derivatives as Free Radical Scavengers and Antioxidants

  • Russel J. Reiter
  • Dun-xian Tan
  • Javier Cabrera
  • Daniele D’Arpa
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 467)


Several tryptophan derivatives function as free radical scavengers and antioxidants. The molecule that has been most widely investigated in this regard is N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine (melatonin); however, pinoline (6-methoxy-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-β-carboline) and N-acetylserotonin also possess free radical scavenging activity. Experimental studies have shown that melatonin directly scavenges the hydroxy radical, peroxyl radical, peroxynitrite anion, and singlet oxygen. Furthermore, this tryptophan derivative stimulates a number of antioxidative enzymes and stabilizes cell membranes; this latter action helps membranes to resist free radical damage. While the antioxidative actions of most molecules are limited by their specific intracellular distribution, e.g., vitamin E in lipid-rich membranes, melatonin’s antioxidative actions include the protection of lipids in the cell membrane, proteins in the cytosol, and DNA in the nucleus. Furthermore, melatonin crosses all morphophysiological barriers and enters equally well all cells in the organism.


Electron Spin Resonance Free Radical Scavenger Pineal Gland Free Radical Scavenge Activity Peroxyl Radical 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Russel J. Reiter
    • 1
  • Dun-xian Tan
    • 1
  • Javier Cabrera
    • 1
  • Daniele D’Arpa
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cellular and Structural BiologyUniversity of Texas Health Science CenterSan AntonioUSA

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