The central melanocortin system and human obesity

J Mol Cell Biol. 2020 Oct 1;12(10):785-797. doi: 10.1093/jmcb/mjaa048.


The prevalence of obesity and the associated comorbidities highlight the importance of understanding the regulation of energy homeostasis. The central melanocortin system plays a critical role in controlling body weight balance. Melanocortin neurons sense and integrate the neuronal and hormonal signals, and then send regulatory projections, releasing anorexigenic or orexigenic melanocortin neuropeptides, to downstream neurons to regulate the food intake and energy expenditure. This review summarizes the latest progress in our understanding of the role of the melanocortin pathway in energy homeostasis. We also review the advances in the identification of human genetic variants that cause obesity via mechanisms that affect the central melanocortin system, which have provided rational targets for treatment of genetically susceptible patients.

Keywords: melanocortin; neurons; obesity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / genetics
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Melanocortins / genetics
  • Melanocortins / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / metabolism*


  • Melanocortins