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      Ghrelin in Growth and Development

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          Exogenous administration of ghrelin increases caloric intake and stimulates growth hormone (GH) secretion, two effects that are mediated through binding of ghrelin to the GH secretagogue receptor (GHS-R). In addition, ghrelin is thought to inhibit adipogenesis by GHS-R-independent mechanisms. In adults, ghrelin is mainly produced by the stomach. In contrast, in the fetal and early postnatal period, ghrelin gene expression is abundant in the pancreas but not in the stomach. While knockout animal studies demonstrate that ghrelin is not required for perinatal development under normal nutritional conditions, the characteristics of ghrelin metabolism during fetal development suggest that ghrelin could contribute to the programming of mechanisms involved in energy balance, such as β-cell maturation, orexigenic pathways and adipogenesis. In humans, ghrelin concentrations progressively decrease during childhood and adolescence, as well as with advancing puberty. In adolescents, similar to adults, ghrelin concentrations are inversely related to body mass index and to circulating insulin. One notable exception is the presence of elevated ghrelin concentrations in subjects with Prader-Willi syndrome, raising the possibility that ghrelin could be part of the etiology of excess food intake in this condition. These data raise a number of fascinating questions on the potential physiologic role of this hormone during growth and development.

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          Most cited references 61

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          A receptor in pituitary and hypothalamus that functions in growth hormone release.

          Small synthetic molecules termed growth hormone secretagogues (GHSs) act on the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus to stimulate and amplify pulsatile growth hormone (GH) release. A heterotrimeric GTP-binding protein (G protein)-coupled receptor (GPC-R) of the pituitary and arcuate ventro-medial and infundibular hypothalamus of swine and humans was cloned and was shown to be the target of the GHSs. On the basis of its pharmacological and molecular characterization, this GPC-R defines a neuroendocrine pathway for the control of pulsatile GH release and supports the notion that the GHSs mimic an undiscovered hormone.
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            Deletion of ghrelin impairs neither growth nor appetite.

            Pharmacological studies show that ghrelin stimulates growth hormone release, appetite, and fat deposition, but ghrelin's physiological role in energy homeostasis has not been established. Ghrelin was also proposed to regulate leptin and insulin release and to be important for the normal function of stomach, heart, kidney, lung, testis, and placenta. To help determine a definable physiological role for ghrelin, we generated ghrelin-null mice. In contrast to predictions made from the pharmacology of ghrelin, ghrelin-null mice are not anorexic dwarfs; their size, growth rate, food intake, body composition, reproduction, gross behavior, and tissue pathology are indistinguishable from wild-type littermates. Fasting produces identical decreases in serum leptin and insulin in null and wild-type mice. Ghrelin-null mice display normal responses to starvation and diet-induced obesity. As in wild-type mice, the administration of exogenous ghrelin stimulates appetite in null mice. Our data show that ghrelin is not critically required for viability, fertility, growth, appetite, bone density, and fat deposition and not likely to be a direct regulator of leptin and insulin. Therefore, antagonists of ghrelin are unlikely to have broad utility as antiobesity agents.
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              Upregulation of Ghrelin expression in the stomach upon fasting, insulin-induced hypoglycemia, and leptin administration.

              Ghrelin is a novel gut-brain peptide that binds to the growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHS-R), thereby functioning in the regulation of growth hormone (GH) release and food intake. Ghrelin-producing cells are most abundant in the oxyntic glands of the stomach. The regulatory mechanism that governs the biosynthesis and secretion of ghrelin has not been clarified. We report that ghrelin mRNA expression in the gastric fundus was increased, but that ghrelin peptide content decreased after a 48-h fast. Both values returned to control levels after refeeding. The ghrelin plasma concentration in the gastric vein and systemic venous blood increased after 24- and 48-h fasts. Furthermore, des-octanoylated ghrelin and n-octanoylated ghrelin were found in rat stomach, with the ratio of des-octanoylated ghrelin to n-octanoylated ghrelin markedly increased after fasting. The ghrelin mRNA level in the stomach also increased after administration of insulin and leptin. Conversely, db/db mice, which are deficient in the leptin receptor, had lower ghrelin mRNA levels than control mice. These findings suggest that this novel gastrointestinal hormone plays a role in the regulation of energy balance. Copyright 2001 Academic Press.

                Author and article information

                Horm Res Paediatr
                Hormone Research in Paediatrics
                S. Karger AG
                April 2005
                27 April 2005
                : 63
                : 3
                : 129-138
                Endocrinology and Diabetes Unit, British Columbia’s Children’s Hospital, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
                84688 Horm Res 2005;63:129–138
                © 2005 S. Karger AG, Basel

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