Obesity is a significant problem throughout industrialized nations. In particular central/visceral obesity is a major constituent of the metabolic syndrome, a group of cormorbidities including insulin resistance, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and increased prothrombotic and proinflammatory factors, associated with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Lipotoxicity, the accumulation of excess lipid in non- adipose tissue, is a common problem associated with obesity and the metabolic syndrome. This imbalance in lipid homeostasis is linked to cell dysfunction and apoptosis. A number of rodent models of obesity show lipotoxicity including diet-induced obese (DIO) and leptin deficient Lepob/Lepob mice. The melanocortin system plays a critical role in the regulation of energy homeostasis in rodents and humans. Genetic deletion of the melanocortin receptors MC3-R and MC4-R led to the generation of two distinct models of obesity. Both show an overall increase in percentage body fat, and adipocyte hypertrophy however, in the MC4-R null mouse this increase in percentage body fat is accompanied by hyperinsulinemia, hypercholesterolemia, proinflammatory changes, and lipotoxicity of the liver, or hepatic steatosis, while the MC3-R null appears to be protected from these comorbidities of metabolic syndrome. This suggests that melanocortin signaling may be important in the regulation of glucose homeostasis, lipid homeostasis, and inflammation, and that the MC3-R may represent a good pharmacological target for the treatment of aspects of metabolic syndrome. This research plan proposes a multi-disciplinary approach to examine the effect of modulating melanocortin signaling on hyperinsulinemia, hypercholoesterolemia, steatosis, and inflammation. MC3-R specific agonists and antagonists will be developed to probe the role of the MC3-R in metabolic syndrome, and tissue specific knockouts of the MC3-R will be used to probe the tissues and mechanisms involved in the apparent protection from metabolic syndrome that results from MC3-R blockade.
Deletion of the melaocortin-3 receptor causes a novel obesity syndrome lacking the insulin resistance, fatty liver, and pro-inflammatory changes seen in other murine models of obesity. This application seeks to identify the sites and mechanisms of action of the MC3-R in this phenomenon, so as to better understand the etiology, and eventually discover better treatments for metabolic syndrome.
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