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Recent advances in the understanding of circadian rhythms have led to an interest in the treatment of major depressive disorder with chronobiotic agents. Many tissues have autonomous circadian rhythms, which are orchestrated by the master clock, situated in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SNC). Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-hydroxytryptamine) is secreted from the pineal gland during darkness. Melatonin acts mainly on MT1 and MT2 receptors, which are present in the SNC, regulating physiological and neuroendocrine functions, including circadian entrainment, referred to as the chronobiotic effet. Circadian rhythms has been shown to be either misaligned or phase shifted or decreased in amplitude in both acute episodes and relapse of major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder. Manipulation of circadian rhythms either using physical treatments (such as high intensity light) or behavioral therapy has shown promise in improving symptoms. Pharmacotherapy using melatonin and pure melatonin receptor agonists, while improving sleep, has not been shown to improve symptoms of depression. A novel antidepressant, agomelatine, combines 5HT2c antagonist and melatonin agonist action, and has shown promise in both acute treatment of MDD and in preventing relapse.
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