Phytomelatonin has been documented in numerous flowering plants, mostly in cultivated species consumed by humans. Although frugivorous animals feed on fruits, the phytomelatonin content of these organs has hardly ever been tested in wild plants. The aim of this study was to determine the levels of phytomelatonin in the leaves and fleshy fruits of 31 wild perennial species known to be eaten by herbivorous and frugivorous mammals and birds. Considerable levels of phytomelatonin were found in the leaves of all the tested species, and some contained melatonin in their fruits as well. The melatonin content was found to vary significantly in different life forms (trees, shrubs, and climbers), with trees possessing the highest levels. The analysis revealed a significant positive correlation between the phytomelatonin levels in the leaves and the fruits of various species. However, the concentration found in the fruits was generally lower than that found in the leaves of the same species. Despite the presence of phytomelatonin in the fleshy fruits of different families, there was no noticeable common attribute among them. Phytomelatonin was exhibited in both the seeds and the pulp, with no obvious preference for either one. Although it was determined that ingested melatonin enters the bloodstream of birds and mammals, its specific role is still not certain. The potential impact of edible phytomelatonin on the circadian rhythm of herbivores and frugivores is discussed on the basis of these findings.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by a grant from the Israel Science Foundation (ISF, grant no. 189/08 ) and a grant from the United States–Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF, grant no. 2006043 ). We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Plant Science