Regulation of adipose tissue leptin secretion by alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone and agouti-related protein: further evidence of an interaction between leptin and the melanocortin signalling system

Nigel Hoggard, L. Hunter, Jackie Duncan, D V Rayner

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The central role of the melanocortin system in the regulation of energy balance has been studied in great detail. However, the functions of circulating melanocortins and the roles of their peripheral receptors remain to be elucidated. There is increasing evidence of a peripheral action of melanocortins in the regulation of leptin production by adipocytes. Here we investigate the interaction of alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH) and agouti-related protein (AgRP) in the regulation of leptin secretion from cultured rat adipocytes and examine the changes in circulating alpha-MSH and AgRP in lean and obese rodents after hormonal and energetic challenge. Leptin secretion (measured by ELISA) and gene expression (by real-time quantitative PCR) of differentiated rat adipocytes cultured in vitro were inhibited by the administration of alpha-MSH (EC50=0.24 nM), and this effect was antagonised by antagonists of the melanocortin receptors MC4R and MC3R (AgRP and SHU9119). The presence of MC4R in rat adipocytes (RT-PCR and restriction digest) supports the involvement of this receptor subtype in this interaction. Leptin administered to ob/ob mice in turn increases the release of alpha-MSH into the circulation, suggesting a possible feedback loop between the site of alpha-MSH release and the release of leptin from the adipose tissue. However, the physiological significance of this putative feedback probably depends upon the underlying state of energy balance, since in the fasting state low plasma alpha-MSH is paralleled by low plasma leptin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-153
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Molecular Endocrinology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2004


  • messenger RNA
  • plasma levels
  • obese men
  • expression
  • MSH
  • receptors
  • involvement
  • adipocytes
  • pathway
  • cells

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