POMC: The Physiological Power of Hormone Processing.
Pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) is the archetypal polypeptide precursor of hormones and neuropeptides. In this review, we examine the variability in the individual peptides produced in different tissues and the impact of the simultaneous presence of their precursors or fragments. We also discuss the problems inherent in accurately measuring which of the precursors and their derived peptides are present in biological samples. We address how not being able to measure all the combinations of precursors and fragments quantitatively has affected our understanding of the pathophysiology associated with POMC processing. To understand how different ratios of peptides arise, we describe the role of the pro-hormone convertases (PCs) and their tissue specificities and consider the cellular processing pathways which enable regulated secretion of different peptides that play crucial roles in integrating a range of vital physiological functions. In the pituitary, correct processing of POMC peptides is essential to maintain the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and this processing can be disrupted in POMC-expressing tumors. In hypothalamic neurons expressing POMC, abnormalities in processing critically impact on the regulation of appetite, energy homeostasis, and body composition. More work is needed to understand whether expression of the POMC gene in a tissue equates to release of bioactive peptides. We suggest that this comprehensive view of POMC processing, with a focus on gaining a better understanding of the combination of peptides produced and their relative bioactivity, is a necessity for all involved in studying this fascinating physiological regulatory phenomenon.
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12012/5)