ACTH and alpha-melanotropin in central temperature control

Fed Proc. 1981 Nov;40(13):2760-4.


Adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) and alpha-melanotropin (alpha-MSH) occur in brain tissue known to be important to temperature control. These peptides cause hypothermia if they are injected centrally in sufficient doses, but they do not act on the central set point of temperature control. Instead they appear to inhibit central pathways for heat conservation and production. In addition to their hypothermic capability, these peptides are antipyretic when given centrally in doses that have no effect on normal body temperature. ACTH has previously been associated with fever reduction in both clinical and experimental studies, and it may be that endogenous central ACTH is important for limitation of maximal fever. The hypothermic and antipyretic effects of ACTH do not depend on stimulation of the adrenal cortex because they are also observed in adrenalectomized rabbits. Nor is the antipyretic effect limited to the rabbit inasmuch as a comparable effect has been demonstrated in the squirrel monkey. The two peptides may be involved in central mediation of normal thermoregulation and fever, perhaps limiting the febrile response and other rises in body temperature by acting as neurotransmitters or neuromodulators in central thermoregulatory pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / pharmacology
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature / drug effects
  • Body Temperature Regulation* / drug effects
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Kinetics
  • Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormones / pharmacology
  • Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormones / physiology*
  • Rabbits
  • Temperature


  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormones