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Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Jul;20(5):203-15. doi: 10.1016/j.tem.2009.02.002. Epub 2009 Jun 21.

Role of central melanocortin pathways in energy homeostasis.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge, CB2 1PD, UK.


The rise in the global prevalence of human obesity has emphasized the need for a greater understanding of the physiological mechanisms that underlie energy homeostasis. Numerous circulating nutritional cues and central neuromodulatory signals are integrated within the brain to regulate both short- and long-term nutritional state. The central melanocortin system represents a crucial point of convergence for these signals and, thus, has a fundamental role in regulating body weight. The melanocortin ligands, synthesized in discrete neuronal populations within the hypothalamus and brainstem, modulate downstream homeostatic signalling via their action at central melanocortin-3 and -4 receptors. Intimately involved in both ingestive behaviour and energy expenditure, the melanocortin system has garnered much interest as a potential therapeutic target for human obesity.

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