Discovery that a melanocortin regulates sexual functions in male and female humans

Peptides. 2005 Oct;26(10):1687-9. doi: 10.1016/j.peptides.2005.01.023.


Melanocortins (MCs) are multifunctional peptide hormones that regulate a diversity of physiological functions. MCs have been implicated in sexual function in animals. We document here that a MC analog, Melanotan II (MTII), can enhance sexual function in human males (erectile activity) and females (increased levels of sexual desire and genital arousal). Unlike other sexual-enhancement drugs, MTII works at the level of the brain, thus eliciting a rather natural sexual response with minimal or no undesirable side effects. The actions of the peptide were discovered accidentally while studying the effects of the peptide and related analogs on human skin pigmentation (tanning).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Penile Erection / drug effects
  • Penile Erection / physiology*
  • Peptides, Cyclic / administration & dosage
  • Peptides, Cyclic / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior / drug effects
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology*
  • alpha-MSH / administration & dosage
  • alpha-MSH / analogs & derivatives*
  • alpha-MSH / physiology


  • Peptides, Cyclic
  • melanotan-II
  • alpha-MSH