Melatonin receptor activation suppresses adrenocorticotropin production via BMP-4 action by pituitary AtT20 cells

Naoko Yamauchi, Fumio Otsuka, Kanako Ogura-Ochi, Kenichi Inagaki, Eri Nakamura, Kishio Toma, Tomohiro Terasaka, Yasumasa Iwasaki, Hirofumi Makino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


The role of melatonin, a regulator of circadian rhythm, in adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) production by corticotrope cells has not been elucidated. In this study, we investigated the effect of melatonin on ACTH production in relation to the biological activity of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)-4 using mouse corticotrope AtT20 cells that express melatonin type-1 (MT1R) but not type-2 (MT2R) receptors. We previously reported that BMP-4 inhibits corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH)-induced ACTH production and proopiomelanocortin (POMC) transcription by inhibiting MAPK signaling. Both melatonin and an MT1R/MT2R agonist, ramelteon, suppressed CRH-induced ACTH production, POMC transcription and cAMP synthesis. The inhibitory effects of ramelteon on basal and CRH-induced POMC mRNA and ACTH levels were more potent than those of melatonin. Treatment with melatonin or ramelteon in combination with BMP-4 additively suppressed CRH-induced ACTH production. Of note, the level of MT1R expression was upregulated by BMP-4 stimulation. The suppressive effects of melatonin and ramelteon on POMC transcription and cAMP synthesis induced by CRH were not affected by an MT2R antagonist, luzindole. On the other hand, BMP-4-induced Smad1/5/8 phosphorylation and the expression of a BMP target gene, Id-1, were augmented in the presence of melatonin and ramelteon. Considering that the expression levels of BMP receptors, ALK-3/BMPRII, were increased by ramelteon, MT1R action may play an enhancing role in BMP-receptor signaling. Among the MT1R signaling pathways including AKT, ERK and JNK pathways, inhibition of AKT signaling functionally reversed the MT1R effects on both CRH-induced POMC transcription and BMP-4-induced Id-1 transcription. Collectively, MT1R signaling and BMP-4 actions were mutually augmented, leading to fine-tuning of ACTH production by corticotrope cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular and cellular endocrinology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 5 2013


  • Adrenocorticotropin
  • Bone morphogenetic protein
  • Corticotrope
  • Corticotropin-releasing hormone
  • Melatonin and ramelteon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology


Dive into the research topics of 'Melatonin receptor activation suppresses adrenocorticotropin production via BMP-4 action by pituitary AtT20 cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this