There is overwhelming evidence that the brain melanocortin system is a key regulator of energy balance, and dysregulations in the brain melanocortin system can lead to obesity. The melanocortin system is one of the major downstream leptin signaling pathways in the brain. In contrast to leptin, preclinical studies indicate that diet-induced obese animals are still responsive to the anorectic effects of melanocortin receptor agonists, suggesting the melanocortin system is an interesting therapeutic opportunity. Besides regulating energy balance, melanocortins are involved in a variety of other neuroendocrine processes, including inflammation, blood pressure regulation, addictive and sexual behavior, and sensation of pain. This review evaluates the melanocortin system function from the perspective to use specific melanocortin (MC) receptors as drug targets, with a focus on the treatment of obesity and eating disorders in humans, and the implications this may have on mechanisms beyond the control of energy balance.
Keywords: pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) gene, melanocortin (MC)receptors, MC4 receptor knockout mice, diet-induced obesity prone (DIO-P)rats, Obesity
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