Melanotan 2 peptide is a synthetic analog developed to mimic the mechanism of action of alpha-MSH. Melanocyte-stimulating hormone 2 (MSH-2) is similar to MSH-1 in potency, range of receptors, and activity but is considered to posses greater stability, blood-brain permeability, and longer half-life.
The melanocortin system consists of melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH), ACTH, five G-protein coupled receptors (MR1R-MR5R), and endogenous antagonists (Agouti & Agouti-related proteins). The central melanocortin system consists of alpha-MSH, agouti-related proteins, and MC3R and MC4R. Studies have established the roles of these melanocortins in various complex biological pathways.
Melanotan 2 Peptide Research Implications
Melanin is a compound that imparts pigment and is naturally produced by skin cells called melanocytes in cell structures called melanosomes. It is considered to hold a pivotal role in photoprotection and contributes to or prevents the development of melanoma. The mechanism involves a signaling cascade by activation of MC1R. Research studies in the synthetic Melanotan peptides suggest MC1R may be activated by binding of Melanotan 1 or 2. This activates adenylate cyclase AC leading to cAMP stimulation. cAMP causes phosphorylation of cAMP response-element-binding CREB by activating protein kinase A PKA. This phosphorylated CREB, after binding to CRE on the microphthalmia-associated transcription factor MTIF gene, causes the production of MTIF protein. All this leads to an increased quantity of melanogenic enzymes in melanocytes. MC1R polymorphism describes the variability in skin pigmentation in response relative to ultraviolet radiation exposure.
2. Arousal and Sexual Dysfunction
Melanocortin peptides have been studied for their potential impact in erectile functioning and female sexual dysfunctions. Studies have suggested a significant role of MC3R in peripheral and central receptors. In some studies, Bremelanotide (PT-141) exposure – acting on MC4R – has exhibited profound aphrodisiac potential in female rats, promoting pre-copulatory behavior. Some preliminary clinical studies have also indicated it may enhance sexual drive in females. Studies have also suggested the role of melanocortin peptides in sexuality through dopaminergic transmission.
3. Melanotan 2 Peptide and Immunity Research
Inflammation is a natural host protective phenomenon, but unchecked and prolonged inflammation may deteriorate the host immune system. This can be seen in cases of chronic inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease. A study has indicated the potential of receptors MC1R, MC3R, MC4R, and MC5R in regulating host inflammatory response. The inflammatory cells express melanocortin receptors. Monocytes, macrophages, lymphocytes, and microglia possess MC1R, MC3R, and MC5R. By modulating these receptors, scientists might be able to downregulate inflammatory pathways even in the presence of proinflammatory mediators such as cytokine interferon-gamma, TNF-alpha, IL-1, IL-6, IL-8, and growth-regulated oncogene-alpha.
Naturally occurring Alpha-MSH may establish anti-inflammatory potential in several ways, such as:
- Downregulating IL-8 receptors and non-cytokine mediators, e.g., NO2 and iNOS.
- Reduction in migration of inflammatory cells and cell-adhesion molecule expression
- Enhancing the activity of anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10
- Inhibition of NF_kB proinflammatory pathway
- Reduction in chemotaxis of neutrophils by inhibiting superoxide radical production
MC1R plays a significant role in various chronic inflammatory diseases by regulating the immune system to combat proinflammatory mediators. MC1R agonists may potentially improve blood-brain barrier efficiency and prevent penetration of inflammatory cells into the CNS. This is of great value in neuroinflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Another mechanism by which melanocortin receptors (mainly MC3R and MC4R) appear to express anti-inflammatory impact is a cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway through the vagus nerve and alpha-7 receptors. This plays its role in ischemic brain and heart conditions and autoimmune regulation.
Melanotan 2 peptide has been suggested to encourage metabolic functioning via MC4R binding and researchers hypothesize that it may potentially improve cholesterol and glucose metabolism. MC4R activated by alpha-MSH comprises the brain melanocortin system’s efferent limb and maintains weight homeostasis. The pharmacological antagonists of MC4R appeared to lead to weight gain, while the agonist was observed to lead to the contrary in laboratory experiments. It was reported that chronic activation of MC4R may lead to persistent high BP despite weight loss, and this BP can be controlled by adrenoceptor blockade. Melanin is present in excess in the adipose tissue of research models of obesity, potentially owing to its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative action – excessive fat storage places the body under oxidative stress.
6. Brain Inflammation
The melanocortin receptors help resolve inflammation in brain tissue by modulating NF-kappaB-mediated transcription following brain injury. Naturally occurring Alpha-MSH has also been suggested to exert neuroprotective action. The melanocortins accelerate neuro-physical recovery after spinal cord injury and repair. MC1R and MC4R modulation may have many beneficial impacts in research models of Alzheimer’s, depression, autism spectrum disorder, and schizophrenia.
8. Melanotan 2 Peptide and Role in Cardiovascular System
Alpha and gamma-MSH are considered to raise heart rate and blood pressure through sympathetic system stimulation, by activating alpha-MSH by MC4R and gamma-MSH by sodium channels in CNS. Studies have studied the potential of melanocortin peptides in resolving inflammation and preventing reperfusion injury following ischemia through MC3R in association with the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway. Research is ongoing.
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