Regulation of bone mass through pineal-derived melatonin-MT2 receptor pathway

Kunal Sharan, Kirsty Lewis, Takahisa Furukawa, Vijay Yadav

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Tryptophan, an essential amino acid through a series of enzymatic reactions gives rise to various metabolites, viz. serotonin and melatonin, that regulate distinct biological functions. We show here that tryptophan metabolism in the pineal gland favors bone mass accrual through production of melatonin, a pineal-derived neurohormone. Pineal gland-specific deletion of Tph1, the enzyme that catalyzes the first step in the melatonin biosynthesis lead to a decrease in melatonin levels and a low bone mass due to an isolated decrease in bone formation while bone resorption parameters remained unaffected. Skeletal analysis of the mice deficient in MT1 or MT2 melatonin receptors showed a low bone mass in MT2−/− mice while MT1−/− mice had a normal bone mass compared to the WT mice. This low bone mass in the MT2−/− mice was due to an isolated decrease in osteoblast numbers and bone formation. In vitro assays of the osteoblast cultures derived from the MT1−/− and MT2−/− mice showed a cell intrinsic defect in the proliferation, differentiation and mineralization abilities of MT2−/− osteoblasts compared to WT counterparts, and the mutant cells did not respond to melatonin addition. Finally, we demonstrate that daily oral administration of melatonin can increase bone accrual during growth and can cure ovariectomy-induced structural and functional degeneration of bone by specifically increasing bone formation. By identifying pineal-derived melatonin as a regulator of bone mass through MT2 receptors, this study expands the role played by tryptophan derivatives in the regulation of bone mass and underscores its therapeutic relevance in postmenopausal osteoporosis.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12423
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Pineal Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2017


  • Tryptophan
  • Bone
  • Melatonin
  • Osteoblasts
  • Osteoporosis

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