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Brain Res. 2003 Jul 11;977(2):221-30.

Exploring the site of anorectic action of peripherally administered synthetic melanocortin peptide MT-II in rats.

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Department of Obesity and Metabolic Research, Merck Research Laboratories, P.O. Box 2000, R80M-213, Rahway, NJ 07065, USA.


Melanotan-II (MT-II), a cyclic heptapeptide, is a potent, non-selective melanocortinergic agonist. When administered centrally or systemically, MT-II elicited a profound inhibitory effect on food intake in rodents, presumably via activation of melanocortin-4-receptor (MC4R). In this study, we sought to investigate whether penetration of MT-II and iodo-MT-II into brain parenchyma is required for the anorectic effect following intravenous (IV) administration. Firstly, both MT-II and iodo-MT-II were effective at suppressing appetite in rats following their IV administration. We next surveyed by in vitro autoradiographic studies the distribution of selective (125)I-MT-II binding sites in multiple brain regions including areas important for feeding regulation such as the hypothalamus and caudal brainstem. Upon IV administration of (125)I-MT-II, significant radioactivity could not be detected in various brain regions by autoradiography except for a group of circumventricular organs (CVOs), which are anatomically situated outside the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The most intensely labeled CVOs include the subfornical organ, median eminence, area postrema and choroid plexus, and accumulation of radioactivity at these sites can be blocked by co-injection of excess unlabeled MT-II. Direct measurement of MT-II in the brain and plasma by LC-MS-MS following IV injection confirmed that the degree of MT-II penetration into the brain is negligible. Furthermore, when given peripherally under conditions that suppressed food intake, MT-II did not result in a detectable induction of c-Fos-like immunoreactivity in brain regions where a significantly elevated c-Fos expression was observed following intracerebroventricular injection of this peptide. Our results indicate that MT-II has a very limited brain penetration capability, and its effect on feeding behavior following systemic administration may be mediated by either the brain regions in close proximity to the CVOs or sites outside of the BBB, including CVOs or other peripheral systems.

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