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J Immunol. 1998 Sep 15;161(6):2873-80.

Alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone inhibits the nuclear transcription factor NF-kappa B activation induced by various inflammatory agents.

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Department of Molecular Oncology, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston 77030, USA.


Alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH) is a tridecapeptide found mainly in the brain, pituitary, and circulation. It inhibits most forms of inflammation by a mechanism that is not known. As most types of inflammation require activation of NF-kappa B, we investigated the effect of alpha-MSH on the activation of this transcription factor by a wide variety of inflammatory stimuli. Electrophoretic mobility shift assay showed that alpha-MSH completely abolished TNF-mediated NF-kappa B activation in a dose- and time-dependent manner. It also suppressed NF-kappa B activation induced by LPS, okadaic acid, and ceramide. The effect was specific, as the activation of the transcription factor activating protein-1 by TNF was unaffected. Western blot analysis revealed that TNF-dependent degradation of the inhibitory subunit of NF-kappa B, I kappa B alpha, and nuclear translocation of the p65 subunit of NF-kappa B were also inhibited. This correlated with suppression of NF-kappa B-dependent reporter gene expression induced by TNF. The inhibitory effect of alpha-MSH appeared to be mediated through generation of cAMP, as inhibitors of adenylate cyclase and of protein kinase A reversed its inhibitory effect. Similarly, addition of membrane-permeable dibutyryl cAMP, like alpha-MSH, suppressed TNF-induced NF-kappa B activation. Overall, our results suggest that alpha-MSH suppresses NF-kappa B activated by various inflammatory agents and that this mechanism probably contributes to its anti-inflammatory effects.

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