The role of melanocortins in skin homeostasis

Horm Res. 2000;54(5-6):287-93. doi: 10.1159/000053273.


Melanocortins are structurally related bioactive peptides which are produced by many extra-neural tissues including the skin. All of the melanocortins (alpha, beta, and gamma-melanocyte-stimulating hormone and adrenocorticotropin) have melanotropic activity but can elicit many other effects on skin cells. On the basis of in vitro and in vivo findings melanocortins have been shown to regulate immune and inflammatory responses, hair growth, exocrine gland activity and extracellular matrix composition. These effects are mediated by melanocortin receptors among which the melanocortin-1 receptor is most ubiquitously expressed by human skin cells. Simultaneous expression of melanocortins and their receptors suggest a complex autocrine and/or paracrine regulatory network whose disruption invariably affects skin homeostasis. Expression of melanocortin receptors on various skin cell types further indicates novel pharmacological targets for the treatment of skin diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Homeostasis*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Corticotropin / metabolism
  • Receptors, Melanocortin
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin Diseases / metabolism
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena*


  • Receptors, Corticotropin
  • Receptors, Melanocortin