The gastrointestinal tract represents the most important extra pineal source of melatonin. Presence of melatonin (M) suggests that this hormone is somehow involved in digestive pathophysiology. Release of GI melatonin from serotonin-rich enterochromaffin EC cells of the GI mucosa suggest close antagonistic relationship with serotonin (S) and seem to be related to periodicity of food intake. Food deprivation resulted in an increase of tissue and plasma concentrations of M. Its also act as an autocrine and paracrine hormone affecting not only epithelium and immune system but also smooth muscle of the digestive tract. Low doses M improve gastrointestinal transit and affect MMC. M reinforce MMCs cyclic pattern but inhibits spiking bowel activity. Pharmacological doses of M delay gastric emptying via mechanisms that involve CCK2 and 5HT3 receptors. M released in response to lipid infusion exerts a modulatory influence that decreases the inhibitory effects of the ileal brake on gastric emptying. On isolated bowel S induces dose dependent increase in tone and reduction in amplitude of contraction which is affected by M. M reduced the tone but not amplitude or frequency of contraction. M is a promising therapeutic agent for IBS with activities independent of its effects on sleep, anxiety or depression. Since of its unique properties M could be considered for prevention or treatment of colorectal cancer, ulcerative colitis, gastric ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.
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