60 YEARS OF POMC: Biosynthesis, trafficking, and secretion of pro-opiomelanocortin-derived peptides

    1. Y Peng Loh
    1. Section on Cellular Neurobiology, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to Y Peng Loh; Email: lohp{at}mail.nih.gov


    Pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) is a prohormone that encodes multiple smaller peptide hormones within its structure. These peptide hormones can be generated by cleavage of POMC at basic residue cleavage sites by prohormone-converting enzymes in the regulated secretory pathway (RSP) of POMC-synthesizing endocrine cells and neurons. The peptides are stored inside the cells in dense-core secretory granules until released in a stimulus-dependent manner. The complexity of the regulation of the biosynthesis, trafficking, and secretion of POMC and its peptides reflects an impressive level of control over many factors involved in the ultimate role of POMC-expressing cells, that is, to produce a range of different biologically active peptide hormones ready for action when signaled by the body. From the discovery of POMC as the precursor to adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and β-lipotropin in the late 1970s to our current knowledge, the understanding of POMC physiology remains a monumental body of work that has provided insight into many aspects of molecular endocrinology. In this article, we describe the intracellular trafficking of POMC in endocrine cells, its sorting into dense-core secretory granules and transport of these granules to the RSP. Additionally, we review the enzymes involved in the maturation of POMC to its various peptides and the mechanisms involved in the differential processing of POMC in different cell types. Finally, we highlight studies pertaining to the regulation of ACTH secretion in the anterior and intermediate pituitary and POMC neurons of the hypothalamus.

    • Received 8 February 2016
    • Accepted 15 February 2016
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 1 May 2016
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