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Peptides. 2005 Oct;26(10):1771-81.

The agouti-related protein and its role in energy homeostasis.

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  • 1Pennington Biomedical Research Center, 6400 Perkins Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70808, USA.


The melanocortin system plays an important role in the regulation of energy homeostasis. The Agouti-related protein (AGRP) is a natural antagonist of the action of alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH) at the melanocortin receptors (MCR). AGRP is upregulated by fasting while intracerebroventricular injections of synthetic AGRP lead to increased appetite and food intake. Transgenic mice overexpressing AGRP are also hyperphagic and eventually become obese. AGRP is, therefore, a significant regulator of energy balance and a candidate gene for human fatness. Indeed, humans with common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the promoter or the coding region are leaner and resistant to late-onset obesity than wild-type individuals. AGRP is also expressed in the periphery. Recent studies show that AGRP in the adrenal gland is upregulated by fasting as much as it is in the hypothalamus. These data open up the possibility for a wider role by AGRP not only in food intake but also in the regulation of energy balance through its actions on peripheral tissues. This review summarizes recent advances in the biochemical and physiological properties of AGRP in an effort to enhance our understanding of the role this powerful neuropeptide plays in mammalian energy homeostasis.

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