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Melanocortin Receptors as Drug Targets for Disorders of Energy Balance

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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: MC4 receptor knockout mice; Obesity; diet-induced obesity prone (DIO-P)rats; melanocortin (MC)receptors; pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) gene

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, Department of Pharmacology and Anatomy, University Medical Center Utrecht, Universiteitsweg 100, 3584 CG Utrecht, The Netherland.

Publication date: June 1, 2006

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  • CNS & Neurological Disorders - Drug Targets aims to cover all the latest and outstanding developments on the medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, molecular biology, genomics and biochemistry of contemporary molecular targets involved in neurological and central nervous system (CNS) disorders e.g. disease specific proteins, receptors, enzymes, genes. Each issue of the journal will contain a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of current topics on drug targets involved in neurological and CNS disorders. As the discovery, identification, characterization and validation of novel human drug targets for neurological and CNS drug discovery continues to grow; this journal will be essential reading for all pharmaceutical scientists involved in drug discovery and development.

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