Analyzing the Activation of the Melanocortin-2 Receptor of Tetrapods

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Biological Sciences


Melanocortin-2 receptor, MC2R, Melanocortin-2 receptor accessory protein, MRAP, Tetrapods, Gnathostomes


Following the biochemical characterization of the pituitary hormone, adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), in the 1950’s, a number of structure/function studies were done which identifies two amino acid motifs in ACTH, the HFRW motif and KKRR motif, as critical for the activation of the “ACTH” receptor on adrenal cortex cells. In the 1990’s the “ACTH” receptor was identified as a member of the melanocortin receptor gene family, and given the name melanocortin-2 receptor (MC2R). Since that time a number of studies on both tetrapod and teleost MC2R orthologs have established that these orthologs can only be activated by ACTH, but not by any of the MSH-sized melanocortin ligands, and these orthologs require interaction with the melanocortin-2 receptor accessory protein (MRAP) for functional expression. This review summarizes recent structure/function studies on human ACTH, and points out the importance of the GKPVG motif in ACTH for the activation of the receptor. In this regard, a multiple-step model for the activation of tetrapod and teleost MC2R orthologs is presented, and the evolution of gnathostome MC2R ligand selectivity and the requirement for MRAP interaction is discussed in light of a recent study on a cartilaginous fish MC2R ortholog. This review contains excerpts from the Gorbman/Bern Lecture presented at the Second Meeting of the North American Society for Comparative Endocrinology (NASCE).

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