Role of central melanocortin pathways in energy homeostasis

Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Jul;20(5):203-15. doi: 10.1016/j.tem.2009.02.002. Epub 2009 Jun 21.


The rise in the global prevalence of human obesity has emphasized the need for a greater understanding of the physiological mechanisms that underlie energy homeostasis. Numerous circulating nutritional cues and central neuromodulatory signals are integrated within the brain to regulate both short- and long-term nutritional state. The central melanocortin system represents a crucial point of convergence for these signals and, thus, has a fundamental role in regulating body weight. The melanocortin ligands, synthesized in discrete neuronal populations within the hypothalamus and brainstem, modulate downstream homeostatic signalling via their action at central melanocortin-3 and -4 receptors. Intimately involved in both ingestive behaviour and energy expenditure, the melanocortin system has garnered much interest as a potential therapeutic target for human obesity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Energy Intake / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Melanocortins / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Melanocortins