Subcellular localization of MC4R with ADCY3 at neuronal primary cilia underlies a common pathway for genetic predisposition to obesity

Nat Genet. 2018 Feb;50(2):180-185. doi: 10.1038/s41588-017-0020-9. Epub 2018 Jan 8.


Most monogenic cases of obesity in humans have been linked to mutations in genes encoding members of the leptin-melanocortin pathway. Specifically, mutations in MC4R, the melanocortin-4 receptor gene, account for 3-5% of all severe obesity cases in humans1-3. Recently, ADCY3 (adenylyl cyclase 3) gene mutations have been implicated in obesity4,5. ADCY3 localizes to the primary cilia of neurons 6 , organelles that function as hubs for select signaling pathways. Mutations that disrupt the functions of primary cilia cause ciliopathies, rare recessive pleiotropic diseases in which obesity is a cardinal manifestation 7 . We demonstrate that MC4R colocalizes with ADCY3 at the primary cilia of a subset of hypothalamic neurons, that obesity-associated MC4R mutations impair ciliary localization and that inhibition of adenylyl cyclase signaling at the primary cilia of these neurons increases body weight. These data suggest that impaired signaling from the primary cilia of MC4R neurons is a common pathway underlying genetic causes of obesity in humans.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenylyl Cyclases / genetics*
  • Adenylyl Cyclases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cilia / genetics
  • Cilia / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Space / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mutation
  • NIH 3T3 Cells
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Obesity / genetics*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 4 / genetics*
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 4 / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / genetics


  • MC4R protein, human
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 4
  • Adenylyl Cyclases
  • adenylate cyclase 3