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      Receptor Biology of the Melanocortins, a Family of Neuroimmunomodulatory Peptides

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          Abstract

          Melanocortins, melanocyte-stimulating hormones (MSH) and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) are homologous natural peptides derived from pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC). Recent breakthroughs in melanocortin receptor (MCR) biology are relevant to neuroimmunomodulation because melanocortins are known to modulate fever, inflammation and immunity, by acting both on peripheral targets and within the brain. During fever, endogenous melanocortins exert antipyretic effects by acting on MCR located within the brain, suggesting a protective counterregulatory role of the central melanocortin system. MCR are also found in melanocyte cells and adrenal cortical cells, the classical targets forα-MSH and ACTH, respectively, in myelogenous and lymphoid tissues, and in various endocrine and exocrine glands, adipocytes, and in autonomic ganglia. In the CNS, MCR are prominently distributed in close proximity to the terminal fields of melanocortinergic neurons that innervate neuroendocrine and autonomic motor nuclei as well as other subcortical brain regions important in neuroendocrine and autonomic regulation, sensory processing and various aspects of behavior. Furthermore, the presence of MCR in circumventricular organs of the brain provides direct access of systemic melanocortin hormones to central MCR. Together, these attributes provide an anatomical basis for bidirectionalMCR-mediated communication between brain and periphery. A group of five G-protein-associated MCR subtypes, each of which is positively coupled to adenylate cyclase, has been identified. Among these, the adrenal ACTH receptor (MC2-R) is selectively activated by ACTH. In contrast, the other MCR subtypes (MC1-R, MC3-R, MC4-R, MC5-R) recognize a common group of ligands that includes various forms of MSH as well as ACTH; nevertheles they do exhibit important differences in ligand selectivity. MCR concentrations and MCR mRNA levels are influenced by availability of cognate ligands, by drugs, and by pathological stimuli. Two types of endogenous MCR antagonist proteins have been discovered: agouti protein and the corticostatins. Agouti protein dramatically alters coat color in mammals by antagonizing melanocytic MC1-R. Moreover, spontaneous dominant mutations of the agoutigene in several strains of mice lead to its ubiquitous overexpression and produces not only yellow coat color, but also obesity and insulin resistance, perhaps as a result of its antagonism of other MCR subtypes. The recent emergence of synthetic MCR antagonists, and the feasibility of molecular approaches for targeted inactivation of individual MCR subtypes, should facilitate elucidation of the roles and mechanisms of neuroimmunomodulation by endogenous melanocortins, and the determination of whether selective pharmacological targeting of MCR may ultimately have therapeutic utility.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          NIM
          Neuroimmunomodulation
          10.1159/issn.1021-7401
          Neuroimmunomodulation
          S. Karger AG
          1021-7401
          1423-0216
          1996
          1996
          04 June 1997
          : 3
          : 5
          : 259-284
          Affiliations
          Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, Metabolism and Molecular Medicine and the Tupper Research Institute, Tufts University School of Medicine, and New England Medical Center Hospitals, Boston, Mass., USA
          Article
          97281 Neuroimmunomodulation 1996;3:259–284
          10.1159/000097281
          9218248
          © 1996 S. Karger AG, Basel

          Copyright: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be translated into other languages, reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, microcopying, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Drug Dosage: The authors and the publisher have exerted every effort to ensure that drug selection and dosage set forth in this text are in accord with current recommendations and practice at the time of publication. However, in view of ongoing research, changes in government regulations, and the constant flow of information relating to drug therapy and drug reactions, the reader is urged to check the package insert for each drug for any changes in indications and dosage and for added warnings and precautions. This is particularly important when the recommended agent is a new and/or infrequently employed drug. Disclaimer: The statements, opinions and data contained in this publication are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of the publishers and the editor(s). The appearance of advertisements or/and product references in the publication is not a warranty, endorsement, or approval of the products or services advertised or of their effectiveness, quality or safety. The publisher and the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content or advertisements.

          Page count
          Pages: 26
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