Aged brains express less melanocortin receptors, which correlates with age-related decline of cognitive functions

Yang Zhou, Monica K. Chawla, Jose L. Rios-Monterrosa, Lingzhi Wang, Marc A. Zempare, Victor J. Hruby, Carol A. Barnes, Minying Cai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Brain G-protein coupled receptors have been hypothesized to be potential targets for maintaining or restoring cognitive function in normal aged individuals or in patients with neurode-generative disease. A number of recent reports suggest that activation of melanocortin receptors (MCRs) in the brain can significantly improve cognitive functions of normal rodents and of different rodent models of the Alzheimer’s disease. However, the potential impact of normative aging on the expression of MCRs and their potential roles for modulating cognitive function remains to be elucidated. In the present study, we first investigated the expression of these receptors in six different brain regions of young (6 months) and aged (23 months) rats following assessment of their cognitive status. Correlation analysis was further performed to reveal potential contributions of MCR subtypes to spatial learning and memory. Our results revealed statistically significant correlations between the expression of several MCR subtypes in the frontal cortex/hypothalamus and the hippocampus regions and the rats’ performance in spatial learning and memory only in the aged rats. These findings support the hypothesis that aging has a direct impact on the expression and function of MCRs, establishing MCRs as potential drug targets to alleviate aging-induced decline of cognitive function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6266
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 2 2021


  • Aging
  • Cognitive decline
  • Frontal cortex
  • Hippocampus
  • MC1R
  • MC3R
  • MC4R
  • MC5R
  • Melanocortin receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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