Anti-inflammatory effects of alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone in celiac intestinal mucosa

Neuroimmunomodulation. 2002;10(4):208-16. doi: 10.1159/000068323.


Objectives: The peptide alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH) possesses potent anti-inflammatory activities and has been previously implicated in the endogenous control of inflammatory reactions. The aim of the present research was to determine whether alpha-MSH and its receptors participate in a localized anti-inflammatory response in the duodenal mucosa of celiac patients.

Methods: Three series of experiments were performed, using duodenal biopsy pairs from 53 adult celiac patients and 14 normal subjects, in order to determine: (1). mucosal immunoreactivity for alpha-MSH and melanocortin receptors (MCRs), and gene expression of alpha-MSH precursor pro-opiomelanocortin and MCRs; (2). alpha-MSH and inflammatory cytokine production by duodenal specimens in vitro, and the influence of synthetic alpha-MSH on such cytokine production, and (3). the influence of stimulation with gliadin (the subfraction of gluten that is toxic to patients with celiac disease) on alpha-MSH and cytokine production in vitro and the effect of alpha-MSH on gliadin-stimulated cytokine production.

Results: Elements of a localized anti-inflammatory influence based on alpha-MSH and its receptors were found: duodenal mucosa showed immunostaining for alpha-MSH and two of its receptor subtypes, MC1R and MC5R. alpha-MSH and MC1R immunoreactivity was more intense in specimens from celiac patients. Release of interleukin 6 from gliadin-stimulated duodenal mucosa was inhibited by synthetic alpha-MSH in vitro.

Conclusions: Presence of alpha-MSH and its receptors in celiac mucosa suggests the presence of a local reaction to control the inflammatory response elicited by gliadin. In selected cases of refractory celiac disease, treatment with exogenous peptides might be considered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / metabolism*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Celiac Disease / drug therapy
  • Celiac Disease / metabolism*
  • Celiac Disease / physiopathology
  • Duodenum / drug effects
  • Duodenum / pathology
  • Duodenum / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Gliadin / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Gliadin / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology*
  • Interleukin-6 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / drug effects
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin / metabolism
  • Receptors, Pituitary Hormone / metabolism*
  • alpha-MSH / metabolism*
  • alpha-MSH / pharmacology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Interleukin-6
  • Receptors, Pituitary Hormone
  • alpha-MSH
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin
  • MSH receptor
  • Gliadin