The melanocortin system in leukocyte biology

J Leukoc Biol. 2007 Feb;81(2):383-92. doi: 10.1189/jlb.0706426. Epub 2006 Oct 17.


The melanocortin system is composed of the melanocortin peptides, adrenocorticotropic hormone and alpha-, beta-, and gamma-melanocyte-stimulating hormone, the melanocortin receptors (MCRs), and the endogenous antagonists agouti- and agouti-related protein. Melanocortin peptides exert multiple effects upon the host, including anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects. Leukocytes are a source of melanocortins and a major target for these peptides. Because of reduced translocation of the nuclear factor NF-kappaB to the nucleus, MCR activation by their ligands causes a collective reduction of the most important molecules involved in the inflammatory process. This review examines how melanocortin peptides and their receptors participate in leukocyte biology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / drug effects
  • Cell Nucleus / immunology
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / drug effects
  • Leukocytes / immunology*
  • Melanocortins / immunology*
  • Melanocortins / pharmacology
  • Models, Immunological
  • NF-kappa B / drug effects
  • NF-kappa B / immunology
  • Receptors, Melanocortin / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Melanocortin / immunology
  • Signal Transduction / immunology


  • Melanocortins
  • NF-kappa B
  • Receptors, Melanocortin