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AF Muller, SW Lamberts, JA Janssen, LJ Hofland, PV Koetsveld, M Bidlingmaier, CJ Strasburger, E Ghigo and AJ Van der Lely

OBJECTIVES: In humans, fasting leads to elevated serum GH concentrations. Traditionally, changes in hypothalamic GH-releasing hormone and somatostatin release are considered as the main mechanisms that induce this elevated GH secretion during fasting. Ghrelin is an endogenous ligand of the GH secretagogue receptor and is synthesized in the stomach. As ghrelin administration in man stimulates GH release, while serum ghrelin concentrations are elevated during fasting in man, this increase in ghrelin levels might be another mechanism whereby fasting results in stimulation of GH release. DESIGN AND SUBJECTS: In ten healthy non-obese males we performed a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study comparing fasting with and fasting without GH receptor blockade. GH, ghrelin, insulin, glucose and free fatty acids were assessed. RESULTS: While ghrelin levels do not vary considerably in the fed state, fasting rapidly induced a diurnal rhythm in ghrelin concentrations. These changes in serum ghrelin concentrations during fasting were followed by similar, profound changes in serum GH levels. The rapid development of a diurnal ghrelin rhythm could not be explained by changes in insulin, glucose, or free fatty acid levels. Compared with fasting without pegvisomant, fasting with pegvisomant did not change the ghrelin rhythm. CONCLUSIONS: These data indicate that ghrelin is the main driving force behind the enhanced GH secretion during fasting.

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M Maccario, F Tassone, C Gauna, SE Oleandri, G Aimaretti, M Procopio, S Grottoli, CD Pflaum, CJ Strasburger and E Ghigo

OBJECTIVE: To verify the hypothesis of an increased sensitivity to GH in obesity (OB) and Cushing's syndrome (CS). DESIGN: We studied the effects of short-term administration of low-dose rhGH on circulating IGF-I levels in patients with simple OB or CS and in normal subjects (NS). METHODS: Nineteen women with abdominal OB aged (mean +/- s.e.m.) 38.2+/-3.1 years, body mass index 40.7+/-2.5 kg/m(2), waist to hip ratio 0.86+/-0.02, ten with CS (50.4+/-4.2 years, 29.7 +/- 3.3 kg/m(2)) and 11 NS (35.0+/-3.6 years, 20.5+/-0.5 kg/m(2)) underwent s.c. administration of 5 microg/kg per day rhGH at 2200 h for four days. Serum IGF-I, IGF-binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3), GH-binding protein (GHBP), insulin and glucose levels were determined at baseline and 12 h after the first and the last rhGH administration. RESULTS: Basal IGF-I levels in NS (239.3+/-22.9 microg/l) were similar to those in OB (181.5+/-13.7 microg/l) and CS (229.0+/-29.1 microg/l). Basal IGFBP-3, GHBP and glucose levels in NS, OB and CS were similar while insulin levels in NS were lower (P<0.01) than those in OB and CS. In NS, the low rhGH dose induced a sustained rise of IGF-I levels (279.0+/-19.5 microg/l, P<0.001), a non-significant IGFBP-3 increase and no change in GHBP, insulin and glucose levels. In OB and CS, the IGF-I response to rhGH showed progressive increase (246.2+/-17.2 and 311.0+/-30.4 microg/l respectively, P<0.01 vs baseline). Adjusting by ANCOVA for basal values, rhGH-induced IGF-I levels in CS (299.4 microg/l) were higher than in OB (279.1 microg/l, P<0.01), which, in turn, were higher (P<0.05) than in NS (257.7 microg/l). In OB, but not in CS, IGFBP-3 and insulin levels showed slight but significant (P<0.05) increases during rhGH treatment, which did not modify glucose levels in any group; thus, in the OB patient group a significant fall in glucose/insulin ratio was observed. CONCLUSIONS: Short-term treatment with low-dose rhGH has enhanced stimulatory effect on IGF-I levels in OB and, particularly, in hypercortisolemic patients. These findings support the hypothesis that hyperinsulinism and hypercortisolism enhance the sensitivity to GH in humans.

Free access

R Peino, R Baldelli, J Rodriguez-Garcia, S Rodriguez-Segade, M Kojima, K Kangawa, E Arvat, E Ghigo, C Dieguez and FF Casanueva

Ghrelin is a novel growth hormone (GH) releaser acylated peptide that has recently been purified from stomach, and which potently binds to the GH secretagogue receptor. Ghrelin releases GH in vitro and in vivo in animal models, however its actions, potency and specificity in humans are unknown. In the present study, 12 healthy subjects were studied: 6 underwent four tests with ghrelin administered i.v. at the dose of 0 (placebo), 0.25, 0.5 and 1 microg/kg which corresponds to 0, 18, 37 and 75 microg total dose. A further 6 volunteers underwent two tests on different days with ghrelin at the dose of 3.3 or 6.6 microg/kg which corresponds to 250 microg and 500 microg total dose. Ghrelin-mediated GH secretion showed a dose-response curve, in which 1 microg/kg was the minimally effective dose in some individuals, but not as a group. On the contrary, the total doses of 250 microg and 500 microg elicited a powerful GH secretion, with a mean peak of 69.8+/-9.2 microg/l and 90.9+/-16.9 microg/l respectively, and areas under the curve of 4435+/-608 and 6125+/-1008 microg/l per 120 min respectively. All of them statistically significant vs placebo and vs the 1 microg/kg dose. Ghrelin administration also elicited a relevant dose-response mediated prolactin secretion suggesting no specificity of its actions. No relevant side effects were observed with ghrelin apart from a hyperhydrosis episode in two individuals tested with the higher ghrelin doses. In conclusion, ghrelin is a potent releaser of GH in normal individuals, with a dose-response pattern of operation. No saturating dose was observed.

Free access

A Benso, D H St-Pierre, F Prodam, E Gramaglia, R Granata, A J van der Lely, E Ghigo and F Broglio

Objective

To clarify the metabolic effects of an overnight i.v. infusion of unacylated ghrelin (UAG) in humans. UAG exerts relevant metabolic actions, likely mediated by a still unknown ghrelin receptor subtype, including effects on β-cell viability and function, insulin secretion and sensitivity, and glucose and lipid metabolism.

Design

We studied the effects of a 16-h infusion (from 2100 to 1300 h) of UAG (1.0 μg/kg per h) or saline in eight normal subjects (age (mean±s.e.m.), 29.6±2.4 years; body mass index (BMI), 22.4±1.7 kg/m2), who were served, at 2100 and 0800 h respectively, with isocaloric balanced dinner and breakfast. Glucose, insulin, and free fatty acid (FFA) levels were measured every 20 min.

Results

In comparison with saline, UAG induced significant (P<0.05) changes in glucose, insulin, and FFA profiles. UAG infusion decreased glucose area under the curve (AUC) values by 10% (UAG0 960 min: 79.0±1.7×103 mg/dl per min vs saline0 960 min: 87.5±3.8×103 mg/dl per min) and the AUC at night by 14% (UAG180 660 min: 28.4±0.5×103 mg/dl per min vs saline180 660 min: 33.2±1.1×103 mg/dl per min). The overall insulin AUC was not significantly modified by UAG infusion; however, insulin AUC observed after meals was significantly increased under the exposure to UAG with respect to saline at either dinner or breakfast. The FFA AUC values were decreased by 52% under the exposure to UAG in comparison with saline (UAG0 960 min: 0.3±0.02×103 mEq/l per min vs saline0 960 min: 0.6±0.05×103 mEq/l per min).

Conclusions

Exposure to the i.v. administration of UAG improves glucose metabolism and inhibits lipolysis in healthy volunteers. Thus, in contrast to the diabetogenic action of AG, UAG displays hypoglycemic properties.

Restricted access

Antonio Torsello, Roberta Grilli, Marina Luoni, Margherita Guidi, Maria Cristina Ghigo, William B Wehrenberg, Romano Deghenghi, Eugenio E Müller and Vittorio Locatelli

Torsello A, Grilli R, Luoni M, Guidi M, Ghigo MC, Wehrenberg WB, Deghenghi R, Müller EE, Locatelli V. Mechanism of action of Hexarelin. I. Growth hormone-releasing activity in the rat. Eur J Endocrinol 1996;135:481–8. ISSN 0804–4643

We have reported Hexarelin (HEXA), an analog of growth hormone-releasing peptide 6 (GHRP-6), potently stimulates growth hormone (GH) secretion in infant and adult rats. This study was undertaken to further investigate Hexarelin's mechanisms of action. In 10-day-old pups, treatments with HEXA (80 μg/kg, b.i.d.) for 3–10 days significantly enhanced, in a time-related fashion, the GH response to an acute HEXA challenge. Qualitatively similar effects were elicited in pups passively immunized against growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) from birth. In adult male rats, a 5-day pretreatment with HEXA (150 μg/kg, b.i.d.) did not enhance the effect of the acute challenge, and the same pattern was present after a 5-day pretreatment in male rats with surgical ablation of the mediobasal hypothalamus (MBH-ablated rats). In addition, in adult sham-operated rats, Hexarelin (300 μg/kg, iv) induced a GH response greater (p < 0.05) than that induced by GHRH (2 μg/kg, iv). However, in MBH-ablated rats 7 days after surgery, GHRH was significantly (p < 0.05) more effective than HEXA, and 30 days after surgery HEXA and GHRH evoked similar rises of plasma GH. Finally, the in vitro Hexarelin (10−6 mol/l) effect was transient while GHRH (10−8 mol/l) induced a longer lasting and greater GH release. Three different mechanisms, not mutually exclusive, are postulated for Hexarelin stimulation of GH secretion in vivo: a direct action on the pituitary, though of minor relevance; an indirect action that involves release of GHRH, of relevance only in adult rats; and an action through the release of a still unknown hypothalamic "factor", which in infant and adult rats elicits GH release acting sinergistically with GHRH.

Antonio Torsello, Department of Pharmacology, via Vanvitelli 32, 20129 Milano, Italy

Free access

G Bisi, V Podio, MR Valetto, F Broglio, G Bertuccio, G DEl Rio, MF Boghen, F Berti, EE Muller and E Ghigo

OBJECTIVE: IGF-I possesses specific myocardial receptors and is able to promote cardiac remodelling and even inotropic effects in both humans and other animals. In fact, reduced cardiac mass and performance are present in GH deficiency and these alterations are counteracted by recombinant human (rh) GH replacement, restoring IGF-I levels. Recently, the acute administration of 60 microg/kg rhIGF-I has also been reported to be able to improve cardiac performance evaluated by echocardiography or impedance cardiography in normal subjects. The aim of our study was to verify the effects of a subcutaneous low dose of rhIGF-I (20 microg/kg) on cardiac performance in humans. METHODS: In six healthy male adults (mean+/-S. e.m.: 35.7+/-4.3 years of age), the effects of rhIGF-I on left ventricular function evaluated by radionuclide angiocardiography and on circulating IGF-I, GH, insulin, glucose and catecholamines levels were studied. RESULTS: Administration of rhIGF-I increased circulating IGF-I (peak at +150 min vs baseline: 330.2+/- 9.6 vs 199. 7+/-8.7 microg/l, P<0.03) to levels which persisted similarly up to +180min. Neither GH nor catecholamine levels were modified by rhIGF-I administration, while insulin and glucose levels showed a slight but significant decrease. Basal left ventricular ejection fraction (61.8+/-2.0%) significantly increased at +180 min after rhIGF-I (65.3+/-2.7%, P<0.03). No change was recorded in mean blood pressure while a non-significant trend towards a reduction of heart rate was present by +120 min. CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that even subcutaneous administration of a low dose of rhIGF-I has acute inotropic effects as evaluated by radionuclide angiocardiography in healthy adults.

Free access

JA Janssen, FM van der Toorn, LJ Hofland, P van Koetsveld, F Broglio, E Ghigo, SW Lamberts and A Jan van der Lely

OBJECTIVE: Ghrelin stimulates growth hormone (GH) secretion both in vivo and in vitro. Ghrelin is mainly produced in and released from the stomach but it is probably also produced in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus. Whether pituitary GH release is under the control of ghrelin from the stomach and/or from the arcuate nucleus is not known. Moreover, no data on the feedback of GH on systemic ghrelin concentrations are available. It has recently been suggested that ghrelin may induce obesity. DESIGN: In this study, we addressed the following two questions: a) are circulating ghrelin levels increased in human GH deficiency (GHD), and b) does GH treatment modify ghrelin levels in human GHD? METHODS: The study group consisted of 23 patients with GHD. Eighteen had developed adult-onset GHD and five had developed GHD in their childhood (childhood-onset GHD). Ghrelin was measured with a commercially available radioimmunoassay. All measurements were performed twice, first at baseline, before the start of GH replacement therapy, and then again after one year of therapy. GH doses were adjusted every 3 months, targeting serum total IGF-I levels within the normal gender- and age-related reference values for the healthy population. Maintenance doses were continued once the target serum total IGF-I levels were reached. RESULTS: The sum of skinfolds and body water increased significantly, body fat mass and percentage body fat decreased significantly and body mass index and waist-hip ratio were not significantly changed by one year of GH replacement therapy.Before the start of GH replacement therapy, mean value and range for fasting ghrelin in the studied GHD subjects tended to be lower in comparison with healthy subjects in the control group although the difference did not reach significance (GHD ghrelin mean 67.8 pmol/l, range 37.6-116.3 pmol/l; control mean 83.8 pmol/l, range 35.4-132 pmol/l; P=0.11).One year of GH replacement therapy did not modify circulating ghrelin levels (ghrelin before GH therapy: 67.8 pmol/l, range 37.6-116.3 pmol/l; after GH therapy: 65.3 pmol/l, range 35.8-112.6; P=0.56). CONCLUSIONS: We did not observe elevated ghrelin levels in adult GHD subjects and GH replacement therapy did not modify circulating ghrelin levels, despite significant decreases in body fat mass and percentage body fat. It is conceivable that the lack of ghrelin modifications after long-term GH therapy was due to the reduction of adiposity and insulin on one hand, and increased GH secretion on the other. However, it is still possible that systemic ghrelin is involved in the development of obesity, both in normal and GHD subjects.

Free access

H J Schneider, S Rovere, G Corneli, C G Croce, V Gasco, R Rudà, S Grottoli, G K Stalla, R Soffietti, E Ghigo and G Aimaretti

Objective: Hypopituitarism frequently follows pituitary neurosurgery (NS) and/or irradiation. However, the frequency of hypothalamic–pituitary dysfunction after NS of non-pituitary intracranial tumors is unclear. The aim of this study was to assess the presence of endocrine alterations in patients operated on for intracranial tumors.

Design: This is a retrospective study.

Methods: We studied 68 consecutive adult patients (28 female, 40 male, age 45.0 ± 1.8 years; body mass index (BMI): 26.5 ± 0.6) with intracranial tumors who underwent NS only (n = 17) or in combination with radiotherapy (RT) and/or chemotherapy (CT) (n = 51). In all subjects, basal endocrine parameters and the GH response to GHRH + arginine test (using BMI-dependent cut offs) were evaluated.

Results: In 20.6% of the patients, peripheral endocrinopathy related to CT and/or RT was present. Hypopituitarism was found in 38.2% of the patients. Total pituitary hormone, multiple pituitary hormone, and isolated pituitary hormone deficits were present in 16.2, 5.8, and 16.2% respectively. The most common pituitary deficits were, in decreasing order: LH/FSH 29.4%, GH 27.9%, ACTH 19.1%, TSH 17.7%, and diabetes insipidus 4.4%. Hyperprolactinemia was present in 13.2%. The prevalence of hypopituitarism was higher in patients who underwent NS only and with tumors located closely to the sella turcica, but a substantial proportion of patients with tumors not directly neighboring the sella also showed hypopituitarism.

Conclusions: Hypopituitarism frequently occurs after NS for intracranial tumors. Also, exposure of these patients to CT and/or RT is frequently associated with peripheral endocrinopathies. Thus, endocrine evaluation and follow-up of patients treated for intracranial tumors should be performed on a regular basis.

Free access

Barbara Lucatello, Andrea Benso, Isabella Tabaro, Elena Capello, Mirko Parasiliti Caprino, Lisa Marafetti, Denis Rossato, Salvatore E Oleandri, Ezio Ghigo and Mauro Maccario

Objective

In most cases of primary aldosteronism (PA), an adrenal aldosterone-secreting tumor cannot be reasonably proven, so these patients undergo medical treatment. Controversial data exist about the evolution of PA after medical therapy: long-term treatment with mineralocorticoid antagonists has been reported to normalize aldosterone levels but other authors failed to find remission of mineralocorticoid hypersecretion. Thus, we planned to retest aldosterone secretion in patients with medically treated PA diagnosed at least 3 years before.

Design

Retrospective, cross-sectional study.

Methods

The same workup for PA as at diagnosis (basal aldosterone to renin activity ratio (ARR) and aldosterone suppression test) was performed after stopping interfering drugs and low-salt diet, in 34 subjects with PA diagnosed between 3 and 15 years earlier, by case finding from subgroups of hypertensive patients at high risk for PA. Criteria for persistence of PA were the same as at diagnosis (ARR (pg/ml per ng per ml per h) >400, aldosterone >150 pg/ml basally, and >100 pg/ml after saline infusion) or less restrictive.

Results

PA was not confirmed in 26 (76%) of the patients and also not in 20 (59%) using the least restrictive criteria suggested by international guidelines. Unconfirmed PA was positively associated with female sex, higher potassium levels, longer duration of hypertension, and follow-up, but not with adrenal mass, aldosterone levels at diagnosis, and treatment with mineralocorticoid antagonists.

Conclusions

This study suggests that mineralocorticoid hyperfunction in patients with PA after medical treatment may decline spontaneously. Higher potassium concentration and duration of treatment seem to increase the probability of this event.

Free access

S Melmed, F Casanueva, F Cavagnini, P Chanson, L A Frohman, R Gaillard, E Ghigo, K Ho, P Jaquet, D Kleinberg, S Lamberts, E Laws, G Lombardi, M C Sheppard, M Thorner, M L Vance, J A H Wass and A Giustina

In November 2003, the Pituitary Society and the European Neuroendocrine Association sponsored a consensus workshop in Seville to address challenging issues in the medical management of acromegaly. Participants comprised 70 endocrinologists and neurosurgeons with international expertise in managing patients with acromegaly. All participants participated in the workshop proceedings, and the final document written by the scientific committee reflects the consensus opinion of the interactive deliberations. The meeting was supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Ipsen. No pharmaceutical representatives participated in the program planning or in the scientific deliberations.