60 YEARS OF POMC: Melanocortin receptors: evolution of ligand selectivity for melanocortin peptides

    1. Bogdana Petko
    1. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to R M Dores; Email: rdores{at}du.edu


    The evolution of the melanocortin receptors (MCRs) is linked to the evolution of adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), the melanocyte-stimulating hormones (MSHs), and their common precursor pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC). The origin of the MCRs and POMC appears to be grounded in the early radiation of the ancestral protochordates. During the genome duplications that have occurred during the evolution of the chordates, the organization plan for POMC was established, and features that have been retained include, the high conservation of the amino acid sequences of α-MSH and ACTH, and the presence of the HFRW MCR activation motif in all of the melanocortin peptides (i.e. ACTH, α-MSH, β-MSH, γ-MSH, and δ-MSH). For the MCRs, the chordate genome duplication events resulted in the proliferation of paralogous receptor genes, and a divergence in ligand selectivity. While most gnathostome MCRs can be activated by either ACTH or the MSHs, teleost and tetrapod MC2R orthologs can only be activated by ACTH. The appearance of the accessory protein, MRAP1, paralleled the emergence of teleost and tetrapods MC2R ligand selectivity, and the dependence of these orthologs on MRAP1 for trafficking to the plasma membrane. The accessory protein, MRAP2, does not affect MC2R ligand selectivity, but does influence the functionality of MC4R orthologs. In this regard, the roles that these accessory proteins may play in the physiology of the five MCRs (i.e. MC1R, MC2R, MC3R, MC4R, and MC5R) are discussed.

    • Received 15 January 2016
    • Accepted 20 January 2016
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 1 May 2016
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