To sleep, perchance to dream: New insight into melatonin production

Contact: Heather Cosel
coselpie@cshl.edu
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

In the April 1 issue of G&D, a Korean research team led by Dr. Kyong-Tai Kim (Pohang University) describes how melatonin production is coordinated with the body’s natural sleep/wake cycles.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, which helps to regulate our bodies’ circadian rhythm (the roughly-24-hour cycle around which basic physiological processes proceed). Normally, melatonin production is inhibited by light and enhanced by darkness, usually peaking in the middle of the night. Melatonin’s expression pattern is mimicked by a protein called AANAT, which is a key enzyme in the melatonin biosynthesis pathway.

Dr. Kim and colleagues uncovered the mechanism of rhythmic control of AANAT mRNA translation, and thereby melatonin synthesis. The researchers found that rodent AANAT mRNA translation is mediated by IRES (internal ribosome entry site) elements in the 5′ end of the transcript, through binding of another protein, called hnRNP Q. In fact, siRNA knock-down of hnRNP Q reduced AANAT and melatonin production under nocturnal conditions.

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Folllowing Rick Usher's death in December 2008, at his request in September of that year, I had agreed, as his principal contributor and an experienced journalist, to run the FMS Global News service due to his heavy commitments to music and raising research funds through this avenue. Following his sad and sudden death I hope to continue his work as he would have wished.
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