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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1999 Oct 20;885:1-21.

The proopiomelanocortin system.

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Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, College of Medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson 85724-5044, USA.


POMC (31,000 MW) is localized to the pituitary, brain, skin, and other peripheral sites. The particular enzyme profile present within a cell dictates the nature of the hormonal ligand (melanocortin) synthesized and secreted: melanotropic peptides (alpha-MSH beta-lipotropin, lambda-MSH), corticotropin (ACTH), several endorphins (e.g., met-enkephalin). These POMC-derived peptides mediate their actions through typical seven-spanning membrane receptors (MCRs; MCR1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). A specific melanocortin acting on a specific MCR regulates a particular biological response; for example, alpha-MSH on MCR1 increases melanogenesis within melanocytes, ACTH on MCR2 increases cortisol production within adrenal zona fasciculata cells. Within the brain melanocortins regulate satiety (MCR4) and erectile activity (MCR?). MCRs have been localized by melanocortin macromolecular probes, for example, fluorescent to human epidermal melanocytes and also to keratinocytes, suggesting that systemic melanocortins or localized POMC products might regulate these integumental cellular elements in synchrony to enhance skin pigmentation and/or immunological responses. Superpotent, prolonged acting melanotropic peptides have been synthesized and their application in clinical medicine has been demonstrated. MCR antagonists have been used to discover and further delineate other roles of melanocortin ligands. For example, melanocortin-induced satiety can be antagonized by a melanocortin antagonist. Defects in melanocortin ligand biosynthesis, secretion, and melanocortin receptor function can lead to a diverse number of pathological states.

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