Aimsα-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH), derived from the precursor molecule pro-opiomelanocortin, exerts potent anti-inflammatory actions in the vasculature, but its role in circulatory regulation remains unclear. Therefore, we sought to investigate whether α-MSH could regulate the local control of blood vessel tone.Methods and resultsUsing in vivo and ex vivo methods to assess vascular reactivity, we found that α-MSH improved endothelium-dependent vasodilatation in the mouse aorta and coronary circulation without directly contracting or relaxing blood vessels. α-MSH promoted vasodilatation by enhancing endothelial nitric oxide (NO) formation and by improving sensitivity to endothelium-independent blood vessel relaxation. Using cultured human endothelial cells to elucidate the involved molecular mechanisms, we show that α-MSH increased the expression and phosphorylation of endothelial NO synthase in these cells. The observed effects were regulated by melanocortin 1 (MC1) receptors expressed in the endothelium. In keeping with the vascular protective role of α-MSH, in vivo treatment with stable analogues of α-MSH ameliorated endothelial dysfunction associated with aging and diet-induced obesity in mice.ConclusionThe present study identifies α-MSH and endothelial MC1 receptors as a new signalling pathway contributing to the regulation of NO availability and vascular function. These findings suggest applicability of α-MSH analogues for therapeutic use in pathological conditions that are characterized by vascular dysfunction.
- Endothelial function
- Endothelial nitric oxide synthase
- Nitric oxide
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
- Physiology (medical)