Clinical significance of melatonin receptors in the human myometrium

Melatonin receptor expression is upregulated in the pregnant human myometrium at the time of labor, leading to synergism with oxytocin signaling to promote high uterine contractility and parturition at night.


James Olcese, Ph.D., Stephen Beesley, Ph.D.

Volume 102, Issue 2, Pages 329-335



To review and update the research on melatonin receptor expression in the human myometrium, in particular as it pertains to uterine contractility at labor.


Summary of previous studies with the addition of new data on the transcriptional regulation of melatonin receptor expression in human myometrial cells.


Not applicable.


Late-term pregnant volunteers.


Biopsy collection for in vitro analyses provided the original data. More recently, uterine contractions in late-term pregnant volunteers were assessed before, during, and after acute white-light exposure.

Main Outcome Measure(s):

Melatonin receptor signaling in myometrial cells and uterine contractions in late-term pregnant volunteers.


Melatonin acts through the MTNR1B melatonin receptor that is expressed in the myometrium at late term to synergistically enhance oxytocin-dependent signaling and contractions. Acute inhibition of endogenous melatonin levels with light reversibly suppresses uterine contractions.


These results point to a significant role for circulating melatonin in the timing and degree of uterine contractions in late-term pregnancy. Understanding the regulation of melatonin receptors remains a future objective.

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