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      The role of proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurones in feeding behaviour

      1 ,
      Nutrition & Metabolism
      BioMed Central

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          The precursor protein, proopiomelanocortin (POMC), produces many biologically active peptides via a series of enzymatic steps in a tissue-specific manner, yielding the melanocyte-stimulating hormones (MSHs), corticotrophin (ACTH) and β-endorphin. The MSHs and ACTH bind to the extracellular G-protein coupled melanocortin receptors (MCRs) of which there are five subtypes. The MC3R and MC4R show widespread expression in the central nervous system (CNS), whilst there is low level expression of MC1R and MC5R. In the CNS, cell bodies for POMC are mainly located in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus and the nucleus tractus solitarius of the brainstem. Both of these areas have well defined functions relating to appetite and food intake. Mouse knockouts (ko) for pomc, mc4r and mc3r all show an obese phenotype, as do humans expressing mutations of POMC and MC4R. Recently, human subjects with specific mutations in β-MSH have been found to be obese too, as have mice with engineered β-endorphin deficiency. The CNS POMC system has other functions, including regulation of sexual behaviour, lactation, the reproductive cycle and possibly central cardiovascular control. However, this review will focus on feeding behaviour and link it in with the neuroanatomy of the POMC neurones in the hypothalamus and brainstem.

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          Most cited references189

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          Anatomy and regulation of the central melanocortin system.

          Roger Cone (2005)
          The central melanocortin system is perhaps the best-characterized neuronal pathway involved in the regulation of energy homeostasis. This collection of circuits is unique in having the capability of sensing signals from a staggering array of hormones, nutrients and afferent neural inputs. It is likely to be involved in integrating long-term adipostatic signals from leptin and insulin, primarily received by the hypothalamus, with acute signals regulating hunger and satiety, primarily received by the brainstem. The system is also unique from a regulatory point of view in that it is composed of fibers expressing both agonists and antagonists of melanocortin receptors. Given that the central melanocortin system is an active target for development of drugs for the treatment of obesity, diabetes and cachexia, it is important to understand the system in its full complexity, including the likelihood that the system also regulates the cardiovascular and reproductive systems.
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            Obesity and the regulation of energy balance.

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              Rapid rewiring of arcuate nucleus feeding circuits by leptin.

              The fat-derived hormone leptin regulates energy balance in part by modulating the activity of neuropeptide Y and proopiomelanocortin neurons in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus. To study the intrinsic activity of these neurons and their responses to leptin, we generated mice that express distinct green fluorescent proteins in these two neuronal types. Leptin-deficient (ob/ob) mice differed from wild-type mice in the numbers of excitatory and inhibitory synapses and postsynaptic currents onto neuropeptide Y and proopiomelanocortin neurons. When leptin was delivered systemically to ob/ob mice, the synaptic density rapidly normalized, an effect detectable within 6 hours, several hours before leptin's effect on food intake. These data suggest that leptin-mediated plasticity in the ob/ob hypothalamus may underlie some of the hormone's behavioral effects.

                Author and article information

                Nutr Metab (Lond)
                Nutrition & Metabolism
                BioMed Central (London )
                1 September 2007
                : 4
                : 18
                [1 ]Division of Medicine, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Colney Lane, Norwich, NR4 7UZ, UK
                Copyright © 2007 Millington; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 5 May 2007
                : 1 September 2007

                Nutrition & Dietetics
                Nutrition & Dietetics


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