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Peptides. 1999;20(3):395-400.

Thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH) selectively binds and activates the melanocortin 1 receptor.

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  • 1Department of Pharmaceutical Pharmacology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.


We tested the endogenous tripeptide TRH (thyrotropin releasing hormone) ability to bind to MC (melanocortin) receptor subtypes. We discovered that TRH binds to the human MCI receptor expressed in COS cells and to murine B16 melanoma cells with 5790+/-1010 nM and 6370+/-1260 nM Ki's, respectively. TRH did not bind to the human MC3, MC4 or MC5 receptor subtypes. Moreover, TRH also stimulated cAMP production in murine B16 melanoma cells reaching the same maximum level of cAMP as found for alpha-MSH. However, several analogues of TRH, including TRH-OH, TRH-Gly-NH2 and other analogues, where each of the three amino acid residues in TRH had been exchanged by a related residue, did not bind to any of the MC receptors tested in this study. C(alpha) atoms of molecular models of TRH and the core of a MSH peptide were aligned with r.m.s. of 0.01 A. Moreover, TRH could be docked into a binding pocket of a molecular model of the MC1 receptor at only a little higher energy than a short cyclic MSH peptide. The data indicate a similarity in the mode of TRH and MSH activation of the MCI receptor.

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