Current biological and pharmacological evidence suggests that the melanocortin 4 and melanocortin 3 receptors which are seven transmembrane G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are involved in various aspects of energy balance and feeding behaviors in animals including humans. The natural endogenous ligands for these receptors are products of the gene pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC), and include α-melanocyte stimulating hormone, γ-melanocyte stimulating hormone and perhaps other modified products of POMC. Thus well designed agonists and antagonists of these ligands might serve as drugs for the treatment of feeding disorders. However, these melanotropin peptides also can have other biological activities that involve the MC3R and MC4R, and these other biological properties will need to be modulated in ligands that are likely to be useful drugs for feeding disorders. Current progress in these areas with special emphasis on the MC3R will be discussed along with possible new directions that might be fruitful in these important aspects of contemporary biology and medicine.
Keywords: Melanocortin genes, melanotropin peptides, MC4R, MC3R, obesity, anorexia
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