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Int J Biol Sci 2014; 10(10):1128-1137. doi:10.7150/ijbs.10359

Research Paper

Defect in MAPK Signaling As a Cause for Monogenic Obesity Caused By Inactivating Mutations in the Melanocortin-4 Receptor Gene

Shan He1,2, Ya-Xiong Tao1✉

1. Department of Anatomy, Physiology, and Pharmacology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama 36849-5519, USA.
2. Key Laboratory of Freshwater Animal Breeding, Ministry of Agriculture, College of Fisheries, Huazhong Agricultural University, Hubei Collaborative Innovation Center for Freshwater Aquaculture, Wuhan, Hubei 430070, China.


The melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) is a Family A G protein-coupled receptor that plays an essential role in regulating energy homeostasis, including both energy intake and expenditure. Mutations leading to a reduced MC4R function confer a major gene effect for obesity. More than 170 distinct mutations have been identified in humans. In addition to the conventional Gs-stimulated cAMP pathway, the MC4R also activates MAPKs, especially ERK1/2. We also showed there is biased signaling in the two signaling pathways, with inverse agonists in the Gs-cAMP pathway acting as agonists for the ERK1/2 pathway. In the current study, we sought to determine whether defects in basal or agonist-induced ERK1/2 activation in MC4R mutants might potentially contribute to obesity pathogenesis in patients carrying these mutations. The constitutive and ligand-stimulated ERK1/2 activation were measured in wild type and 73 naturally occurring MC4R mutations. We showed that nineteen mutants had significantly decreased basal pERK1/2 level, and five Class V variants (where no functional defects have been identified previously), C40R, V50M, T112M, A154D and S295P, had impaired ligand-stimulated ERK1/2 activation. Our studies demonstrated for the first time that decreased basal or ligand-stimulated ERK1/2 signaling might contribute to obesity pathogenesis caused by mutations in the MC4R gene. We also observed biased signaling in 25 naturally occurring mutations in the Gs-cAMP and ERK1/2 pathways.

Keywords: Melanocortin-4 receptor, naturally occurring mutation, extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 signaling, biased signaling.

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How to cite this article:
He S, Tao YX. Defect in MAPK Signaling As a Cause for Monogenic Obesity Caused By Inactivating Mutations in the Melanocortin-4 Receptor Gene. Int J Biol Sci 2014; 10(10):1128-1137. doi:10.7150/ijbs.10359. Available from