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Immunoreactive α-MSH in human plasma in pregnancy

Abstract

IT has been suggested that the increased skin pigmentation of pregnancy is due to increased secretion of melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) (refs 1–3), but this is not β-MSH, because the slight increase in immunoreactive β-MSH found in late pregnancy4 is much less than the changes associated with skin pigmentation. Evidence suggests that the 22 amino acid β-MSH, originally thought to be the major MSH in man5, is an extraction artefact6, and the immunoreactive β-MSH measured in the human4,7,8 is in fact β or γ lipotrophin9. Other forms of β-MSH have never been isolated from the adult human pituitary and only small quantities of α-MSH have been found10. Immunoreactive α-MSH is present in larger amounts in the human foetal pituitary11 and has also been detected in the pituitary of the pregnant woman12. We report here the presence of circulating immunoreactive α-MSH in pregnancy.

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