Photoreceptors in retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a group of inherited retinal degenerative diseases, die through apoptosis. Since melatonin protects against neuronal apoptotic death, we tested its ability to slow photoreceptor degeneration in the rds/rds mouse, an animal model for RP. Shortly after birth, rds/rds mice were given daily i.p. injections of melatonin or vehicle for 11 weeks. Melatonin treatment significantly delayed photoreceptor loss and reduced the number of apoptotic photoreceptors. Further studies should determine if melatonin will have potential for the treatment of certain human retinal degenerations. © 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.