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Biochemistry. 1997 Feb 25;36(8):2084-90.

Mutations in the carboxyl terminus of the agouti protein decrease agouti inhibition of ligand binding to the melanocortin receptors.

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Division of Biochemistry, Glaxo Wellcome Inc., Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709, USA.


Several mutations that cause ectopic expression of the agouti gene result in obesity, hyperinsulinemia, and yellow coat color. A candidate pathway for agouti induced obesity and hyperinsulinemia is through altered signaling by melanocortin receptors, as agouti normally regulates coat coloration through antagonism of melanocortin receptor 1. Furthermore, melanocortin peptides mediate functions including steroidogenesis, lipolysis, and thermoregulation. We report apparent inhibition dissociation constants for mouse and human agouti protein inhibition of ligand binding to the melanocortin receptors, to determine which of these receptors might be involved in agouti induced diabetes. The similarity in the apparent K(I) values for agouti inhibition of ligand binding to the brain melanocortin receptors 3 and 4 (mouse: K(I) app = 190 +/- 74 and 54 +/- 18 nM; human: K(I) app = 140 +/- 56 and 70 +/- 18 nM, respectively) suggests that the MC3-R is a potential candidate for a receptor mediating the effects of agouti protein overexpression. Agouti residues important for melanocortin receptor inhibition were identified through the analysis of deletion constructs and site-specific variants. Val83 is important for inhibition of binding to MC1-R (K(I) app for Val83Ala agouti increased 13-fold relative to wild-type protein). Arg85, Pro86, and Pro89 are important for selective inhibition of binding between MC1-R and MC3-R and MC4-R as their apparent K(I) values are essentially unchanged at MC1-R, while they have increased 6-10-fold relative to wild-type protein at MC3-R and MC4-R.

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