Melanocyte-stimulating hormone describes a group of hormones produced by the pituitary gland, hypothalamus and skin cells. It is important for protecting the skin from UV rays, development of pigmentation and control of appetite.
It does this by inducing specialised skin cells called melanocytes to produce a pigment called melanin; melanin protects cells from DNA damage, which can lead to skin cancer (melanoma).
Melanocyte-stimulating hormone is produced from the same precursor molecule as adrenocorticotropic hormone called pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC).
Although known for its stimulatory effect on pigment cells, studies have sho
Although known for its stimulatory effect on pigment cells, studies have shown that melanocyte-stimulating hormone can also suppress appetite by acting on receptors in the hypothalamus in the brain. This effect is enhanced by leptin, a hormone released from fat cells.
Melanocyte-stimulating hormone is also thought to affect a range of other processes in the body; it has anti-inflammatory effects, can influence the release of the hormone aldosterone, which controls salt and water balance in the body, and is also thought to have an effect on energy homeostasis and sexual behaviour. However, further research is needed to clarify the exact role of melanocyte-stimulating hormone in these processes.