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

Evidence for the differential expression of the functional alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone receptor MC-1 on human monocytes.

alpha-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH) is released by immunocompetent cells as well as the pituitary gland and functions as a potent inhibitor of immune and inflammatory reactions. Therefore, it was investigated whether normal human monocytes express melanocortin (MC) receptors specific for alpha-MSH. Upon FACS analysis using biotin-labeled alpha-MSH, a low number of alpha-MSH binding sites was detectable on unstimulated monocytes. alpha-MSH receptor expression was up-regulated when monocytes were treated with endotoxin ( LPS) or mitogen ( PHA) for 3 to 5 days and was further augmented by the addition of cytokines such as IL-2, IFN-gamma, IL-4, and IL-10. Adrenocorticotropin, a precursor of alpha-MSH, but not the structurally unrelated beta-MSH, competitively inhibited alpha-MSH binding, suggesting that the receptor expressed on monocytes is specific for alpha-MSH. This was further confirmed by reverse transcription-PCR, which demonstrated that monocytes express mRNA specific for the MC receptor MC-1, which binds alpha-MSH and adrenocorticotropin, whereas mRNA specific for other known melanocortin receptors was not detectable. To investigate whether the immunosuppressing capacity of alpha-MSH is associated with the up-regulation of MC-1, its effect on the expression of costimulatory molecules (CD86 and CD80) on human monocytes was investigated. alpha-MSH significantly inhibited the expression of CD86 on LPS-treated monocytes, which exhibited a high density of MC-1, whereas CD80 expression was not altered. These findings indicate that human monocytes, depending on their activation and maturation state, are able to express MC-1, and up-regulation of MC-1 seems to be required to enable alpha-MSH to modulate immune responses in which costimulatory molecules play a decisive role.[1]


  1. Evidence for the differential expression of the functional alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone receptor MC-1 on human monocytes. Bhardwaj, R., Becher, E., Mahnke, K., Hartmeyer, M., Schwarz, T., Scholzen, T., Luger, T.A. J. Immunol. (1997) [Pubmed]
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