Melatonergic agonist regulates circadian clock genes and peripheral inflammatory and neuroplasticity markers in patients with depression and anxiety

Senthil Kumaran Satyanarayanan, Yu-Chuan Chien, Jane Pei-Chen Chang, Shih-Yi Huang, Ta-Wei Guu, Huanxing Su, Kuan-Pin Su

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Circadian dysfunction is a core manifestation and a risk factor for psychiatric disorders. Ramelteon (RMT), a melatonin receptor agonist, has been shown to induce sleep phase shifts and has been used to normalize sleep onset time. RMT has been used in sleep disorders, depression and anxiety. In this study, we aimed to investigate the effects of RMT in regulating gene expression profiles of the circadian clock and peripheral markers of inflammation and neuroplasticity. Methods: Sixteen patients with a diagnosis of primary insomnia comorbid with depression and anxiety and ten healthy controls were recruited in an 8-week open-label trial. The patients with primary insomnia received RMT 8 mg/day. The morning expression profiles of 15 core clock genes from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), urine and plasma levels of melatonin and its metabolite levels, and plasma inflammatory markers and neurotrophin levels were evaluated at baseline, 4th and 8th week of RMT treatment. Results: RMT treatment was associated with significant clinical improvement in depression scores at 8th week (Hamilton depression rating scale scores (Mean ± SEM) from 21.5 ± 2.44 to 14.31 ± 2.25, p ≤ 0.05). The overall poor sleep quality (Pittsburgh sleep quality index) of the patient group significantly improved (p ≤ 0.05) following RMT treatment. The mRNA level analysis showed a significant association between RMT treatment and alterations of the nine core circadian genes (CLOCK, PER1, PER2, CRY1, CRY2, NR1D1, NR1D2, DEC1 and TIMELESS) in the patient group when compared with the control group (p ≤ 0.05). Compared with the controls, the patient group had a decrease in neurotrophins (brain-derived neurotrophic factor, glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor and beta-nerve growth factor; p ≤ 0.05) but an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokine levels (interleukin-6, interleukin-1b, tumour necrosis factor-alpha and interferon gamma; p ≤ 0.05); RMT treatment normalized the levels of neurotrophins and cytokine levels. Conclusion: RMT treatment is able to restore phase-shifted melatonin markers, normalized the altered expression of the circadian genes, the levels of inflammatory cytokines and neurotrophins in patients with insomnia comorbid anxiety and depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-151
Number of pages10
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Anxiety
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Clock genes
  • Depression
  • Inflammation
  • Insomnia
  • Neurotrophins
  • Ramelteon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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