Melatonin is now known to be a multifaceted free radical scavenger and antioxidant. It detoxifies a variety of free radicals and reactive oxygen intermediates including the hydroxyl radical, peroxynitrite anion, singlet oxygen and nitric oxide. Additionally, it reportedly stimulates several antioxidative enzymes including glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase and superoxide dismutase; conversely, it inhibits a prooxidative enzyme, nitric oxide synthase. Melatonin also crosses all morphophysiological barriers, e.g., the blood-brain barrier, placenta, and distributes throughout the cell; these features increase the efficacy of melatonin as an antioxidant. Melatonin has been shown to markedly protect both membrane lipids and nuclear DNA from oxidative damage. In every experimental model in which melatonin has been tested, it has been found to resist macromolecular damage and the associated dysfunction associated with free radicals.

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