Analysis of the therapeutic functions of novel melanocortin receptor agonists in MC3R- and MC4R-deficient C57BL/6J mice

Peptides. 2009 Oct;30(10):1892-900. doi: 10.1016/j.peptides.2009.07.012. Epub 2009 Jul 29.


Melanocortin receptor agonists act in the brain to regulate food intake and body weight and, independently of these actions, affect insulin sensitivity. These experiments investigated the function of novel non-selective melanocortin receptor agonists (BIM-22493, BIM-22511) that cross the blood-brain barrier when administered peripherally. Treatment of diet induced obese C57BL/6J (B6) mice with melanocortin agonists administered peripherally improved obesity, hyperinsulinemia (approximately 50%) and fatty liver disease. Specificity of function was determined using B6 melanocortin-3 and melanocortin-4 receptor knockout mice (MC3RKO, MC4RKO). Chow fed MC4RKO but not MC3RKO used for these tests exhibited obesity, hyperinsulinemia and severe hepatosteatosis associated with increased expression of insulin-stimulated genes involved in lipogenesis. Reduced food intake associated with acute BIM-22493 treatment, and weight loss associated with 14 days of treatment with BIM-22511, required functional MC4R but not MC3R. However, while 14 days of treatment with BIM-22511 did not affect body weight and even increased cumulative food intake in MC4RKO, a significant reduction (approximately 50%) in fasting insulin was still observed. Despite lowering insulin, chronic treatment with BIM-22511 did not improve hepatosteatosis in MC4RKO, and did not affect hepatic lipogenic gene expression. Together, these results demonstrate that peripherally administered melanocortin receptor agonists regulate body weight, liver metabolism and glucose homeostasis through independent pathways. MC4R are necessary for melanocortin agonist-induced weight loss and improvements in liver metabolism, but are not required for improvements in hyperinsulinemia. Agonists with activity at MC4R improve glucose homeostasis at least partially by causing weight loss, however other melanocortin receptors may have potential for treating aberrations in glucose homeostasis associated with obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet
  • Eating
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 3 / agonists*
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 3 / genetics*
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 3 / metabolism
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 4 / agonists*
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 4 / genetics*
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 4 / metabolism
  • Weight Loss
  • alpha-MSH / analogs & derivatives*
  • alpha-MSH / pharmacology


  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 3
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 4
  • setmelanotide
  • alpha-MSH
  • Glucose