For several years, oncostatic and antiproliferative properties, as well as thoses of cell death induction through 5-methoxy-N
-acetiltryptamine or melatonin treatment, have been known. Paradoxically, its remarkable scavenger, cytoprotective and anti-apoptotic characteristics in neurodegeneration models, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are known too. Analogous results have been confirmed by a large literature to be associated to the use of many other bioactive molecules such as resveratrol, tocopherol derivatives or vitamin E and others. It is interesting to note that the two opposite situations, namely the neoplastic pathology and the neurodegeneration, are characterized by deep alterations of the metabolome, of mitochondrial function and of oxygen consumption, so that the oncostatic and cytoprotective action can find a potential rationalization because of the different metabolic and mitochondrial situations, and in the effect that these molecules exercise on the mitochondrial function. In this review we discuss historical and general aspects of melatonin, relations between cancers and the metabolome and between neurodegeneration and the metabolome, and the possible effects of melatonin and of other bioactive molecules on metabolic and mitochondrial dynamics. Finally, we suggest a common general mechanism as responsible for the oncostatic/cytoprotective effect of melatonin and of other molecules examined.
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