The effects of pituitary-derived melanocortin peptides are primarily attributed to ACTH-mediated adrenocortical glucocorticoid production. Identification of a widely distributed receptor for ACTH/MSH peptides, the melanocortin-5 receptor (MC5-R), suggested non-steroidally mediated systemic effects of these peptides. Targeted disruption of the MC5-R produced mice with a severe defect in water repulsion and thermoregulation due to decreased production of sebaceous lipids. High levels of MC5-R was found in multiple exocrine tissues, including Harderian, preputial, lacrimal, and sebaceous glands, and was also shown to be required for production and stress-regulated synthesis of porphyrins by the Harderian gland and ACTH/MSH-regulated protein secretion by the lacrimal gland. These data show a requirement for the MC5-R in multiple exocrine glands for the production of numerous products, indicative of a coordinated system for regulation of exocrine gland function by melanocortin peptides.
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