Since melatonin production has been documented in extrapineal and extraneuronal tissues, we investigated the expression of molecular elements of the melatoninergic system in human RPE cells (ARPE-19). The expression of key enzymes for melatonin synthesis: tryptophan hydroxylases (TPH1 and TPH2); arylalkylamine N-acetyltransferase (AANAT) and hydroxyindole-O-methyltransferase (HIOMT) was detected in ARPE-19 cells using RT-PCR. TPH1 and AANAT proteins were detected in ARPE by Western blotting, while sequential metabolism of tryptophan, serotonin and N-acetylserotonin to melatonin was shown by RP-HPLC. We also demonstrated, by means of RT-PCR, that ARPE expressed mRNA encoding the melatonin receptors: MT2 (but not MT1), two isoforms of nuclear receptor (RORα1 and RORα4/RZR1), and quinone oxidoreductase (NQO2). By analogy with other peripheral tissues, for example the skin, the expression of these metabolic elements in RPE cells suggests that the RPE represents an additional source of melatonin in the eye, to regulate local homeostasis and prevent from oxidative damage in intra-, auto- and/or paracrine fashions. © 2009 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.