Melanotan 1, Afamelanotide, or just Melanotan as is it is commonly referred is a synthetic peptide that is an analog to alpha melanocytes stimulating hormone. Alpha melanocytes stimulating hormone or a-MSH. Alpha MSH activates specific melanocortin receptors, which in turn contributes to melanogenesis, the hormone is also influential in accentuating appetite, lipid metabolism, and sexual libido through the receptors. Oxytocin and Melanotan are analogs of the peptide alpha-MSH, which induces skin tanning.
The first created peptide of Melanotan was produced at the University of Arizona. During their scientific research on the development of a mechanism to fight melanoma, the scientists focused on the production of melanin though the natural process which in turn would alleviate the chances of developing skin cancer as it protects the skin against harmful ultraviolet radiation. The production of Melanotan with a better half life prompted the scientists to develop a peptide sequence, which included Nle4, D-Phe7-a-MSH, this was a thousand times more potent than the natural a-MSH. The peptide was first named Melanotan and later renamed Melanotan 1. Melanotan gives a photo protective effect on the skin by triggering the signal cascade through the activation of the MC1R on the cells that produce melanin or melanocytes.
The binding of MC1R leads to the activation of adenylate cyclase or AC and the stimulation of adenine monophosphate cAMP. The cyclic adenosine monophosphate activates protein kinase A or PKA causes phosphorylation or addition of phosphate group to the cAMP response-binding element CREB. Phosphorylated CREB binds to cAMP response element CRE on the MITF or microphtalmia-associated transcription factor gene that in turn leads to the biosynthesis of the MITF protein. Microphtalmia associated transcription factor gene is capable of activating other several genes which include the MC1R gene which is vital in melanogenesis. The initiation of melanogenesis is essential in increasing the levels of melanogenic enzymes within melanocytes. The level of the enzymes plays a crucial role in determining whether the cells will form eumelanin or pheomelanin. The production of eumelanin instead of pheomelanin by the skin cells increases the pigmentation of the skin, this pigmentation is essential in protecting the skin against harmful ultraviolet radiation. Other studies show that Melanotan is vital in treating of erythropoietic photoporphyria, which is intolerance to light, continuous research will give more insight on the use of the hormone in alleviating cancer problems.