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Peptides. 2005 Oct;26(10):1886-900.

Evolutionary conservation of the structural, pharmacological, and genomic characteristics of the melanocortin receptor subtypes.

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Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University, Biomedical Centre, Box 593, SE75124 Uppsala, Sweden.


We have cloned melanocortin receptors (MCRs) from several species of fish. The MC4R and MC5R subtypes arose early in vertebrate evolution and their primary structure is remarkably conserved. Expression and pharmacological characterization of the MCRs in fish has revealed that they bind and respond to melanocortin peptides with high potency. Detailed characterization of the binding properties of the different subtypes suggests that MCRs in early vertebrates had preference for adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) peptides, while the high sensitivity for the shorter proopiomelanocortin (POMC) products, such as the alpha-, beta-, and gamma-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH), has appeared later, perhaps as the MCR subtypes gained more specialized functions. The MCR repertoire shows in general high similarities in their primary structures, while they are however not similar in terms of functional roles. The MCRs serve therefore as an interesting model family to understand the molecular mechanisms of how functions of the genes can diverge during evolution. In this review, we provide an overview of our recent studies on the cloning, expression, pharmacology, 3D modeling, and genomic studies of the MCRs in non-mammalian species.

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