Obesity is a major worldwide public health issue. The physiological systems that regulate body weight are thus of great interest as targets for anti-obesity agents. Peptidergic systems are critical to the regulation of energy homeostasis by key regions in the hypothalamus and brainstem. A number of neuropeptide systems have therefore been investigated as potential treatments for obesity. Blocking orexigenic peptide signals such as neuropeptide Y, melanin-concentrating hormone, orexins, relaxin-3 and galanin-like peptide or stimulating anorectic signalling pathways used by peptides such as the melanocortins, ciliary neurotrophic factor and brain-derived neurotrophic factor, are approaches that have shown some promise, but which have also highlighted possible concerns. Manipulation of central peptidergic systems poses a number of therapeutic problems, including brain access and side effects. Given that the homeostatic defence of body weight may limit the effectiveness of any single-target therapy developed, a combination therapy approach may offer the best hope for the effective prevention and treatment of obesity.
This article is part of a themed section on Neuropeptides. To view the other articles in this section visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bph.2013.170.issue-7