Anatomical organization of the melanin-concentrating hormone peptide family in the mammalian brain

Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2011 Jun 1;172(2):185-97. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2011.03.028. Epub 2011 Apr 2.


More than 20 years ago, melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) and its peptide family members - neuropeptide EI (NEI) and neuropeptide GE (NGE) - were described in various species, including mammals (rodents, humans, and non-human primates). Since then, most studies have focused on the role of MCH as an orexigenic peptide, as well as on its participation in learning, spatial memory, neuroendocrine control, and sleep. It has been shown that MCH mRNA or the neuropeptide MCH are present in neurons of the prosencephalon, hypothalamus and brainstem. However, most of the neurons containing MCH/NEI are within the incerto-hypothalamic and lateral hypothalamic areas. In addition, the terminals of those neurons are distributed widely throughout the central nervous system. In this review, we will discuss the relationship between those territories and the roles played by MCH/NEI, as well as the importance of MCH receptor 1 in the respective terminal fields. Certain neurochemical features of MCH- and NEI-immunoreactive (MCH-ir and NEI-ir) neurons will also be discussed. The overarching theme is the anatomical organization of an inhibitory neuropeptide colocalized with an inhibitory neurotransmitter in integrative territories of the central nervous system, such as the IHy and LHA. Although these territories have connections to few brain regions, the regions to which they are connected are relevant, being responsible for the organization of motivated behaviors. All available information on this peptidergic system (anatomical, neurochemical, hodological, physiological, pharmacological and behavioral data) suggests that MCH is intimately involved in arousal and the initiation of motivated behaviors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamic Hormones / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mammals / anatomy & histology
  • Mammals / metabolism*
  • Melanins / metabolism*
  • Multigene Family
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Pituitary Hormones / metabolism*
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Hypothalamic Hormones
  • Melanins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Pituitary Hormones
  • melanin-concentrating hormone