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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Mar;284(3):E468-74.

The melanocortin system.

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Department of Surgery, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-0682, USA.


The melanocortin system consists of melanocortin peptides derived from the proopiomelanocortin gene, five melanocortin receptors, two endogenous antagonists, and two ancillary proteins. This review provides an abbreviated account of the basic biochemistry, pharmacology, and physiology of the melanocortin system and highlights progress made in four areas. In particular, recent pharmacological and genetic studies have affirmed the role of melanocortins in pigmentation, inflammation, energy homeostasis, and sexual function. Development of selective agonists and antagonists is expected to further facilitate the investigation of these complex physiological functions and provide an experimental basis for new pharmacotherapies.

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