Research Topic

Decoding the fetal circadian system and its role in adult sickness and health: Melatonin, a dark history.

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About this Research Topic

The adverse effects of misaligned photoperiod, to which global population is being increasingly exposed (i.e. artificial light at night, shift-work, jet lag, etc.), are becoming clearly evident in our modern society. Actually, compelling evidence supports that exposure to altered photoperiod impinges on health status, increasing the risk of chronic diseases. In this context, it is important to keep in mind that in urbanized societies the regular cycles of light/dark are dangerously disappearing, producing an uncoupling on the temporal internal order, named chronodisruption. Moreover, deleterious effects of chronodisruption have been reported in human, even when this occurs during pregnancy; where increased risk of miscarriage, preterm delivery and low birth weight has been reported in shift-worker women. Indeed, maternal chronodisruption could be translated to the offspring, as reported in animal models and epidemiological studies in human. Thus, gestational chronodisruption, that disturb the maternal circadian rhythm of melatonin, is akin to human and animal models of Developmental Origen of Health and Disease. Given that the interaction of the maternal and fetal circadian systems is crucial for fetal development, it may be a key factor determining a fitting health in adulthood. In this context, the peculiar profile of melatonin in fetal circulation, provided by the mother during fetal life and its absence in the early newborn, implies that maternal melatonin contributes to modulate several relevant functions in fetal physiology or in preparation for extra uterine life.

Melatonin is easily inhibited by light during the night and its absence during gestation has impacts on the offspring’s physiology. Briefly, maternal chronodisruption in experimental models induces disarray of the circadian system in the adult offspring, thereby affecting endocrine, metabolic and cardiovascular functions, in which a common feature is a lack of nocturnal increase of melatonin in the offspring.

Therefore, in the present Research Topic we want to discuss in detail the role of maternal melatonin and fetal circadian system maturation during gestation and its link with chronic diseases like metabolic disorder, hypertension and diabetes; potentially programmed in utero by chronodisruption. In addition, this Research Topic will provide recent evidence about maternal treatment with melatonin as antioxidant and as chronobiotic signal that may contribute to reverse the deleterious effects found in the adult offspring. Ultimately, our major aim is to provide new insights contributing to the understanding of the deleterious effects of chronodisruption; especially on the role played by maternal melatonin during gestation. The Topic Editors have worked on this theme already for more than 2 decades, publishing articles digging into the role of maternal-fetal circadian system and its cross talk with maternal melatonin rhythm. Potential sub-topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. Melatonin synthesis and regulation;
2. Maternal Circadian System;
3. Fetal Circadian System;
4. Programming of Melatonin regulation;
5. Melatonin and reproductive Physiology;
6. Melatonin suppression and its relationship with chronic diseases; and
7. Role of melatonin in aging.


Keywords: Maternal Melatonin, Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, Hypertension, Obesity


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

The adverse effects of misaligned photoperiod, to which global population is being increasingly exposed (i.e. artificial light at night, shift-work, jet lag, etc.), are becoming clearly evident in our modern society. Actually, compelling evidence supports that exposure to altered photoperiod impinges on health status, increasing the risk of chronic diseases. In this context, it is important to keep in mind that in urbanized societies the regular cycles of light/dark are dangerously disappearing, producing an uncoupling on the temporal internal order, named chronodisruption. Moreover, deleterious effects of chronodisruption have been reported in human, even when this occurs during pregnancy; where increased risk of miscarriage, preterm delivery and low birth weight has been reported in shift-worker women. Indeed, maternal chronodisruption could be translated to the offspring, as reported in animal models and epidemiological studies in human. Thus, gestational chronodisruption, that disturb the maternal circadian rhythm of melatonin, is akin to human and animal models of Developmental Origen of Health and Disease. Given that the interaction of the maternal and fetal circadian systems is crucial for fetal development, it may be a key factor determining a fitting health in adulthood. In this context, the peculiar profile of melatonin in fetal circulation, provided by the mother during fetal life and its absence in the early newborn, implies that maternal melatonin contributes to modulate several relevant functions in fetal physiology or in preparation for extra uterine life.

Melatonin is easily inhibited by light during the night and its absence during gestation has impacts on the offspring’s physiology. Briefly, maternal chronodisruption in experimental models induces disarray of the circadian system in the adult offspring, thereby affecting endocrine, metabolic and cardiovascular functions, in which a common feature is a lack of nocturnal increase of melatonin in the offspring.

Therefore, in the present Research Topic we want to discuss in detail the role of maternal melatonin and fetal circadian system maturation during gestation and its link with chronic diseases like metabolic disorder, hypertension and diabetes; potentially programmed in utero by chronodisruption. In addition, this Research Topic will provide recent evidence about maternal treatment with melatonin as antioxidant and as chronobiotic signal that may contribute to reverse the deleterious effects found in the adult offspring. Ultimately, our major aim is to provide new insights contributing to the understanding of the deleterious effects of chronodisruption; especially on the role played by maternal melatonin during gestation. The Topic Editors have worked on this theme already for more than 2 decades, publishing articles digging into the role of maternal-fetal circadian system and its cross talk with maternal melatonin rhythm. Potential sub-topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. Melatonin synthesis and regulation;
2. Maternal Circadian System;
3. Fetal Circadian System;
4. Programming of Melatonin regulation;
5. Melatonin and reproductive Physiology;
6. Melatonin suppression and its relationship with chronic diseases; and
7. Role of melatonin in aging.


Keywords: Maternal Melatonin, Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, Hypertension, Obesity


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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