Knowledge of melanocortins and their receptors has increased tremendously over the last few years. The cloning of five melanocortin receptors, and the discovery of two endogenous antagonists for these receptors, agouti and agouti-related peptide, have sparked intense interest in the field. Here we give a comprehensive review of the pharmacology, physiology and molecular biology of the melanocortins and their receptors. In particular, we review the roles of the melanocortins in the immune system, behaviour, feeding, the cardiovascular system and melanoma. Moreover, evidence is discussed suggesting that while many of the actions of the melanocortins are mediated via melanocortin receptors, some appear to be mediated via mechanisms distinct from melanocortin receptors.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.