Pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) is the precursor of melanocortins (adrenocorticotropin: ACTH, beta-endorphin, beta-lipotropin: beta-LPH, corticotropin like intermediate peptide, alpha-, beta- and gamma-melanocyte-stimulating hormone: alpha-, beta- and gamma-MSH) some of which act in the brain to reduce food intake and are potential mediators of leptin action. Recently, three different mutations in the POMC gene (POMC) were identified in two unrelated children that lead to early-onset extreme obesity, adrenal insufficiency, and red hair pigmentation. In the present study we systematically screened the coding region of POMC in 96 extremely obese children and adolescents, 60 healthy underweight individuals and 46 patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) and identified several variants. a) A 9 and an 18 base pair insertion (9bp and 18bp: AGC AGC GGC and AGC AGC GGC AGC AGC GGC, respectively, between codon 73 and 74; 1,2). These in-frame variants lead to the insertion of three or six amino acids (Ser-Ser-Gly; Ser-Ser-Gly-Ser-Ser-Gly) carboxy-terminal to gamma-MSH. Frequencies of the 9bp insertion allele varied between 3 and 5% among the different study groups (Pearson's chi2 P>0.5). b) Both an out-of-frame 6 bp insertion (within codon 176: GGG CCC) leading to the insertion of two amino acids (Arg-Ala) and a premature stop-codon (G-7316-T: Glu-180-Stop) within the gamma-LPH sequence were maternally inherited in an obese female proband. This proband inherited another missense mutation from her father (Glu-188-Gly). c) A missense mutation (G-7016-A; Asp-80-Asn) was observed in a single patient with AN who also harboured the 9bp insertion on a paternally derived haplotype. d) The allelic co-occurence of two silent mutations (C-6982-T and C-7285-T) was detected in two obese subjects. e) Two further silent mutations (C-3832-T; C-7111-G) were detected in an underweight and an obese subject, respectively. We conclude that the POMC gene harbors several different polymorphisms and mutations, none of which can readily be associated with the phenotypes under study.