Brain receptor uses nutritional state to control growth and age at puberty

It was previously thought growing taller and reaching sexual maturity may have been related to access to food for pregnant women and children, but researchers have now found it might be related to a receptor in the brain.

It is already known that signals reach the brain to indicate the body’s nutritional state. In a part of the brain called hypothalamus, hormones act on a small group of neurons that produce signals called melanocortins.

The melanocortins act on a variety of receptors, two of which are present in the brain. One of these, the melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R) has previously been shown to regulate appetite and lack of MC4R results in obesity, but the MC4R system does not control the effect of nutrition on growth and timing of puberty.

Researchers found that in response to nutritional signals the MC3R system controls the release of key hormones regulating growth and sexual maturation, showing the brain can sense nutrients. This study could help people with the management in growth and puberty disorders.

Read the full press release from November 21

Discover more about the NIHR Cambridge BRC

Contact us by phone, email or web for more information.

Events Calendar

Listing relevant events and training sessions for researchers and members of the public.