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The melanocortin system is a complex neuroendocrine signaling mechanism involved in numerous physiological processes in vertebrates, including pigmentation, steroidogenesis and metabolic control. This review focuses at one of its most fascinating function in fish, its regulatory role in the control of pigmentation, in which the melanocortin 1 receptor (Mc1r), its agonist α-melanocyte stimulating hormone (α-Msh), and the endogenous antagonist agouti signaling protein (Asip1) are the main players. Functional control of Mc1r, which is highly expressed in fish skin and whose activation stimulates melanin production and melanosome dispersion in fish melanophores, is considered a key mechanism for vertebrate pigment phenotypes. The α-Msh peptide, the most documented Mc1r agonist involved in pigmentation, is produced in the pituitary gland, activating melanin synthesis by binding to Mc1r in fish melanophores. Finally, Asip1 is the putative factor for establishing the evolutionarily conserved dorso-ventral pigment pattern found across vertebrates. However, we are just starting to understand how other melanocortin system components are acting in this complex regulatory network. Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Laura Cal, Paula Suarez-Bregua, José Miguel Cerdá-Reverter, Ingo Braasch, Josep Rotllant. Fish pigmentation and the melanocortin system. Comparative biochemistry and physiology. Part A, Molecular & integrative physiology. 2017 Sep;211:26-33

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PMID: 28599948

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