The lack of specific receptors (and antagonists) has hampered the research on the neural mechanism of action of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)- and melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH)-like peptides. Yet the original observations in the 1970s already pointed to cAMP as a possible mediator of ACTH/MSH effects in neurons. The cloning of melanocortin receptors since 1992, the identification of at least two subtypes (melanocortin MC 3 and MC 4 receptors) that are present in neural tissue and the development of selective and potent agonists as well as antagonists have markedly furthered the position of melanocortins as important neuropeptides. In this paper we discuss the role of especially the receptor subtype melanocortin MC 4 in various behaviors including grooming behavior and feeding behavior and consider new insights in the interaction between the opioid and the melanocortin system at the level of the spinal cord (i.e. pain perception). Finally, based on new data obtained in molecular pharmacological studies on brain melanocortin receptors, we suggest a general concept for selective receptor–ligand interaction: ligand residues outside the peptide core-sequence may direct the conformation of the residues in the ligand core-sequence that interact directly with the receptor-binding pocket and thereby determine selectivity.
European Journal of Pharmacology – Elsevier
Published: Sep 29, 2000
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