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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Oct 1, 1993; 90(19): 8856–8860.
PMCID: PMC47459

Identification of a receptor for gamma melanotropin and other proopiomelanocortin peptides in the hypothalamus and limbic system.

Abstract

Corticotropin (ACTH) and melanotropin (MSH) peptides (melanocortins) are produced not only in the pituitary but also in the brain, with highest concentrations in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus and the commisural nucleus of the solitary tract. We have identified a receptor for MSH and ACTH peptides that is specifically expressed in regions of the hypothalamus and limbic system. This melanocortin receptor (MC3-R) is found in neurons of the arcuate nucleus known to express proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and in a subset of the nuclei to which these neurons send projections. The MC3-R is 43% identical to the MSH receptor present in melanocytes and is strongly coupled to adenylyl cyclase. Unlike the MSH or ACTH receptors, MC3-R is potently activated by gamma-MSH peptides, POMC products that were named for their amino acid homology with alpha- and beta-MSH, but lack melanotropic activity. The primary biological role of the gamma-MSH peptides is not yet understood. The location and properties of this receptor provide a pharmacological basis for the action of POMC peptides produced in the brain and possibly a specific physiological role for gamma-MSH.

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