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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone through melanocortin-4 receptor inhibits nitric oxide synthase and cyclooxygenase expression in the hypothalamus of male rats.

There is evidence that alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH) has immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory actions within the brain. In this study, we tested whether these actions are due to inhibition of the synthesis of nitric oxide (NO) and prostaglandins induced by lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Since melanocortin subtype MC4 receptor has been detected in the hypothalamus, we investigated the effect of central administration of alpha-MSH and HS024 (a selective MC4 receptor antagonist) on the gene expression of inducible, neuronal and endothelial NO synthase (iNOS, nNOS and eNOS) and on cyclooxygenase (COX-1 and COX-2) expression in the mediobasal hypothalamus (MBH) of LPS-treated male Wistar rats. Peripheral administration of LPS (250 microg/rat, 3 h) induced iNOS and COX-2 gene expression in the MBH. This stimulatory effect was reduced by alpha-MSH (3 nmol/rat) injected 30 min before LPS. alpha-MSH and HS024 (1 nmol/rat) alone had no effect on iNOS and COX-2 expression. The action of alpha-MSH on LPS-induced iNOS and COX-2 mRNA levels was not observed in the presence of HS024, suggesting that MC4-R may be involved in the modulatory effect of alpha-MSH. None of these treatments produced any modifications in nNOS, eNOS and COX-1 expression in MBH. The increase in serum corticosterone levels induced by LPS was attenuated by alpha-MSH. Both LPS and alpha-MSH decreased serum LH and prolactin levels. HS024 failed to modify the inhibitory effects of LPS and alpha-MSH on prolactin release but reverted the effect of LPS on LH secretion, indicating that MC4-R activation may be involved in the effects of alpha-MSH on LH secretion in male rats. When we examined the in vitro effect of LPS (10 microg/ml) and LPS plus interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma, 100 ng/ml) on iNOS expression in MBH, an increase in iNOS mRNA levels was observed only in the presence of LPS + IFN-gamma. This stimulatory effect was attenuated in the presence of alpha-MSH (5 microM), which by itself had no effect. No changes were found in nNOS, eNOS, COX-1 or COX-2 expression. These results indicate that alpha-MSH reduces the induction of iNOS and COX-2 gene expression at the hypothalamic level during endotoxemia and suggest that endogenous alpha-MSH may exert an inhibitory tone on iNOS and COX-2 transcription via MC4 receptors acting as a local anti-inflammatory agent within the hypothalamus.[1]


  1. Alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone through melanocortin-4 receptor inhibits nitric oxide synthase and cyclooxygenase expression in the hypothalamus of male rats. Caruso, C., Mohn, C., Karara, A.L., Rettori, V., Watanobe, H., Schiöth, H.B., Seilicovich, A., Lasaga, M. Neuroendocrinology (2004) [Pubmed]
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