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Am J Physiol. 1997 Mar;272(3 Pt 1):E379-84.

Agouti regulation of intracellular calcium: role of melanocortin receptors.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition and Physiology Program, University of Tennessee, Knoxville 37996-1900, USA.


Several dominant mutations at the murine agouti locus cause a syndrome of marked obesity and insulin resistance. We have recently reported that intracellular free Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) is elevated in viable yellow mice. Because [Ca2+]i has a key role in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance, obesity, and hypertension, the role of the purified agouti gene product in regulating [Ca2+]i was evaluated in a number of cell types. Purified murine agouti induced slow, sustained increases in [Ca2+]i in A7r5 vascular smooth muscle cells and 3T3-L1 adipocytes in a dose-dependent fashion. In L6 skeletal myocytes, agouti stimulated an increase in [Ca2+]i with an apparent concentration eliciting 50% of the maximal response (EC50) of 62 nM. This response was substantially inhibited by Ca2+ entry blockade with nitrendipine. To determine whether melanocortin receptors play a role in agouti regulation of [Ca2+]i, we examined the effect of melanocortin peptides and agouti in cells stably transfected with human melanocortin receptors. Human embryonic kidney cells (HEK-293 cells) transfected with either the human melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) or melanocortin 3 receptor responded to human agouti with slow, sustained increases in [Ca2+]i, whereas nontransfected HEK-293 cells with no melanocortin receptors did not respond to agouti. Dose-response curves in the MC1R line showed that agouti had an EC50 of 18 nM, which is comparable to that for agouti antagonism of (125)I-Nle,D-Phe-alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone binding in the same cell line. This direct effect of agouti on stimulating increases in [Ca2+]i suggests a potential mechanism for agouti-induced insulin resistance.

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