15 October 2004
Ghrelin and the synthetic growth hormone secretagogues (GHSs) activate a G-protein-coupled receptor (GHS-R) originally cloned from the pituitary, but which is also expressed in the hypothalamus, in other areas of the brain and in numerous peripheral tissues. Several studies have shown that growth hormone (GH)-releasing hormone (GHRH) is necessary for GHSs to exert maximal GH release in vivo. The exact mechanism of this synergism is not clear. Previous data suggest that GHSs can affect pituitary GHS-R mRNA expression; however, it is unknown whether this effect is age dependent and whether hypothalamic GHS-Rs are also affected. In this study, we tested whether (a) the synthetic GHS hexarelin regulates mRNA expression of its own receptor at the pituitary and/or hypothalamus and whether this effect is age dependent, and (b) whether short-term treatment with GHRH or, conversely, passive immunization against GHRH affects pituitary GHS-R1a mRNA expression in infant (10 days old) and young adult rats. GHS-R1a mRNA expression was measured with competitive reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. Hexarelin treatment significantly increased pituitary and hypothalamic GHS-R1a mRNA levels in normal infant rats, but not in normal young adult rats. In addition, hexarelin administration also stimulated pituitary GHS-R1a mRNA in infant as well as in young adult rats passively immunized against GHRH. GHRH treatment significantly enhanced pituitary GHS-R1a mRNA expression in GHRH-deprived young adult rats, though it did not affect the basal levels of GHS-R1a mRNA in normal infant and adult rats. These data further support the hypothesis that GHRH can affect GHS-R1a expression and that hexarelin upregulates the expression of its own receptor at the pituitary as well as the hypothalamus in an age-dependent fashion.