Mutual effects of melatonin and activin on induction of aldosterone production by human adrenocortical cells

Takayuki Hara, Fumio Otsuka, Naoko Yamauchi, Kenichi Inagaki, Takeshi Hosoya, Eri Nakamura, Tomohiro Terasaka, Motoshi Komatsubara, Hirofumi Makino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Melatonin has been reported to suppress adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) secretion in the anterior pituitary and cortisol production in the adrenal by different mechanisms. However, the effect of melatonin on aldosterone production has remained unknown. In this study, we investigated the role of melatonin in the regulation of aldosterone production using human adrenocortical H295R cells by focusing on the activin system expressed in the adrenal. Melatonin receptor MT1 mRNA and protein were expressed in H295R cells and the expression levels of MT1 were increased by activin treatment. Activin increased ACTH-induced, but not angiotensin II (Ang II)-induced, aldosterone production. Melatonin alone did not affect basal synthesis of either aldosterone or cortisol. However, melatonin effectively enhanced aldosterone production induced by co-treatment with ACTH and activin, although melatonin had no effect on aldosterone production induced by Ang II in combination with activin. These changes in steroidogenesis became apparent when the steroid production was evaluated by the ratio of aldosterone/cortisol. Melatonin also enhanced dibutyryl-AMP-induced aldosterone/cortisol levels in the presence of activin, suggesting a functional link to the cAMP-PKA pathway for induction of aldosterone production by melatonin and activin. In accordance with the data for steroids, ACTH-induced, but not Ang II-induced, cAMP synthesis was also amplified by co-treatment with melatonin and activin. Furthermore, the ratio of ACTH-induced mRNA level of CYP11B2 compared with that of CYP17 was amplified in the condition of treatment with both melatonin and activin. In addition, melatonin increased expression of the activin type-I receptor ALK-4 but suppressed expression of inhibitory Smads6/7, leading to the enhancement of Smad2 phosphorylation. Collectively, the results showed that melatonin facilitated aldosterone production induced by ACTH and activin via the cAMP-PKA pathway. The results also suggested that mutual enhancement of melatonin and activin receptor signaling is involved in the induction of aldosterone output by adrenocortical cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-15
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Activin
  • Adrenocorticotropin
  • Aldosterone
  • Melatonin Steroidogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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