The melanocortin receptors: lessons from knockout models

Neuropeptides. Apr-Jun 2002;36(2-3):77-84. doi: 10.1054/npep.2002.0890.


Identifying the role of the melanocortin system in regulating energy homeostasis has relied on both genetic and pharmacological studies. The key findings included 1) that the coat color phenotype in the lethal yellow (A(Y)/a) mouse is due to antagonism of the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) by the agouti gene product; 2) the MC3R and MC4R are expressed in CNS centers involved in energy homeostasis, and 3) the combined results of pharmacological studies showing that agouti is an antagonist of the MC4R and transgenic studies showing that inhibition or loss of the MC4R recapitulate the lethal yellow phenotype. Pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC), MC3R, and MC4R knockouts are obese and are now being used to further analyze melanocortin receptor function. The obesity phenotype observed in the MC3R and MC4R knockouts (KO) differ markedly. MC4RKO mice are hyperphagic, do not regulate pathways that increase energy expenditure (diet-induced thermogenesis) and physical activity in response to hyperphagia, and can develop type 2 diabetes. In contrast, MC3R deficient mice are not hyperphagic, have a normal metabolic response to increased energy consumption, and do not develop diabetes. The mechanism underlying the increased adiposity in the MC3R knockout remains unclear, but might be related to changes in nutrient partitioning or physical activity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hypothalamus / physiology
  • Leptin / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin / genetics
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin / physiology
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 3
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 4
  • Receptors, Corticotropin / genetics*
  • Receptors, Corticotropin / physiology
  • Receptors, Melanocortin


  • Leptin
  • Mc3r protein, mouse
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 3
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 4
  • Receptors, Corticotropin
  • Receptors, Melanocortin
  • melanocortin 5 receptor
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin