Putative melatonin receptors in a human biological clock

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Science  07 Oct 1988:
Vol. 242, Issue 4875, pp. 78-81
DOI: 10.1126/science.2845576


In vitro autoradiography with 125I-labeled melatonin was used to examine melatonin binding sites in human hypothalamus. Specific 125I-labeled melatonin binding was localized to the suprachiasmatic nuclei, the site of a putative biological clock, and was not apparent in other hypothalamic regions. Specific 125I-labeled melatonin binding was consistently found in the suprachiasmatic nuclei of hypothalami from adults and fetuses. Densitometric analysis of competition experiments with varying concentrations of melatonin showed monophasic competition curves, with comparable half-maximal inhibition values for the suprachiasmatic nuclei of adults (150 picomolar) and fetuses (110 picomolar). Micromolar concentrations of the melatonin agonist 6-chloromelatonin completely inhibited specific 125I-labeled melatonin binding, whereas the same concentrations of serotonin and norepinephrine caused only a partial reduction in specific binding. The results suggest that putative melatonin receptors are located in a human biological clock.