Melatonin is a versatile molecule, synthesized not only in the pineal gland, but also in many other organs. Melatonin plays an important physiologic role in sleep and circadian rhythm regulation, immunoregulation, antioxidant and mitochondrial-protective functions, reproductive control, and regulation of mood.
Melatonin has also been reported as effective in combating various bacterial and viral infections. Melatonin is an effective anti-inflammatory agent in various animal models of inflammation and sepsis, and its anti-inflammatory action has been attributed to inhibition of nitric oxide synthase with consequent reduction of peroxynitrite formation, to the stimulation of various antioxidant enzymes thus contributing to enhance the antioxidant defense, and to protective effects on mitochondrial function and in preventing apoptosis. In a number of animal models of septic shock, as well as in patients with septic disease, melatonin reportedly exerts beneficial effects to arrest cellular damage and multiorgan failure. The significance of these actions in septic shock and its potential usefulness in the treatment of multiorgan failure are discussed.