Hypothalamic proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons play a key role in regulating energy balance and neuroendocrine function. Much attention has been focused on the regulation of POMC gene expression with less emphasis on regulated peptide processing. This is particularly important given the complexity of posttranslational POMC processing which is essential for the generation of biologically active MSH peptides. Mutations that impair POMC sorting and processing are associated with obesity in humans and in animals. Specifically, mutations in the POMC processing enzymes prohormone convertase 1/3 (PC1/3) and in carboxypeptidase E (CPE) and in the α-MSH degrading enzyme, PRCP, are associated with changes in energy balance. There is increasing evidence that POMC processing is regulated with respect to energy balance. Studies have implicated both the leptin and insulin signaling pathways in the regulation of POMC at various steps in the processing pathway. This article will review the role of hypothalamic POMC in regulating energy balance with a focus on POMC processing.
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