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JE Caminos, LM Seoane, SA Tovar, FF Casanueva and C Dieguez

OBJECTIVE: To assess whether some of the alterations in energy homeostasis present in thyroid function disorders and GH deficiency could be mediated by ghrelin. DESIGN: To assess the influence of thyroid status on ghrelin, adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were treated with vehicle (euthyroid), amino-triazole (hypothyroid) or l-thyroxine (hyperthyroid). The influence of GH on ghrelin was assessed in wild-type (control) and GH-deficient (dwarf) Lewis rats. Evaluation of gastric ghrelin mRNA expression in the stomach was carried out by Northern blot. Circulating levels of ghrelin were measured by radioimmunoassay. RESULTS: Hypothyroidism resulted in an increase in gastric ghrelin mRNA levels (euthyroid: 100+/-3.2% vs hypothyroid: 127.3+/-6.5%; P<0.01), being decreased in hyperthyroid rats (70+/-5.4%; P<0.01). In keeping with these results, circulating plasma ghrelin levels were increased in hypothyroid (euthyroid: 124+/-11 pg/ml vs hypothyroid: 262+/-39 pg/ml; P<0.01) and decreased in hyperthyroid rats (75+/-6 pg/ml; P<0.01). Using an experimental model of GH deficiency, namely the dwarf rat, we found a decrease in gastric ghrelin mRNA levels (controls: 100+/-6% vs dwarf: 66+/-5.5%; P<0.01) and circulating plasma ghrelin levels (controls: 124+/-12 pg/ml vs dwarf: 81+/-7 pg/ml; P<0.01). CONCLUSION: This study provides the first evidence that ghrelin gene expression is influenced by thyroid hormones and GH status and provides further evidence that ghrelin may play an important role in the alteration of energy homeostasis and body weight present in these pathophysiological states.

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E Carro, LM Seoane, R Senaris, FF Casanueva and C Dieguez

BACKGROUND: Leptin has recently been shown to have a stimulatory effect on basal GH secretion. However, the mechanisms by which leptin exert this effect are not yet clear. GHRH and GH-releasing peptide (GHRP)-6 are the two most potent GH secretagogues described to date. OBJECTIVE: To determine if leptin could also enhance in vivo GH responses to a maximal dose of GHRH. DESIGN: Leptin (10microg i.c.v.) or vehicle was administered at random before GHRH (10microg/kg i,v.) or GHRP-6 (50microg/kg i.v.), to freely-moving rats with food available ad libitum and to (48h) food-deprived rats. METHODS: Leptin and GH concentrations were measured by radioimmunoassay. Comparison between the different groups was assessed by the Mann-Whitney test. RESULTS: In comparison with fed rats, food-deprived rats showed a marked decrease in GH responses to GHRH as assessed by the area under the curve (5492+/-190ng/ml in fed rats and 1940+/-128ng/ml in fasted rats; P<0.05) and GHRP-6 (3695+/-450 in fed rats and 1432+/-229 in fasted rats; P<0.05). In comparison with its effects in vehicle-treated rats, leptin administered to food-deprived rats markedly increased GH responses to both GHRH (6625+/-613ng/ml; P<0.05) and GHRP-6 (5862+/-441ng/ml; P<0.05). CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that the blunted GH response to GHRH and GHRP-6 in food-deprived rats is a functional and reversible state, and that the decreased leptin concentrations could be the primary defect responsible for the altered GH secretion in food-deprived rats.

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C Menendez, R Baldelli, M Lage, X Casabiell, V Pinero, J Solar, C Dieguez and FF Casanueva

OBJECTIVE: Leptin is an adipocyte-secreted hormone acting as a signal to the central nervous system, where it regulates energy homeostasis and neuroendocrine processes. Leptin plasma levels are mainly regulated by the percentage of body fat, but are also controlled by several metabolic and nutritional variables. Data regarding leptin secretion suggest that it is gender regulated, and higher levels are present in women than men; however, the biological basis for this sex-related difference is unknown. To clarify those points, a systematic study with tissue cultures from human omental adipose tissue was performed. DESIGN AND METHODS: Surgically obtained samples from 137 patients (68 women, 69 men) were evaluated. The assay was standardized in periods of 24 h ending at 96 h. Each adipose tissue sample from a single donor was incubated in triplicate and leptin results expressed as the mean of the integrated secretion into the medium (nanograms of leptin/g tissue per time). RESULTS: Tissue adipose cultures showed a steady leptin secretion throughout the 96 h studied, with the peak of secretory activity reached at 48 h; afterwards, the in vitro secretion reached a plateau state. Spontaneous leptin secretion in the 24 h and 48 h period, as well as the area under the curve analyzed in the 0-48 h period, showed a gender-based difference that was significantly (P<0. 05) higher in women than in men. When data of spontaneous leptin secretion were correlated with the body mass index (BMI) of the donors, no correlation was found. This suggests that in vivo leptin levels are dependent on the total amount of fat of the individual, but independent of the leptin secretory rate by the adipose tissue of the donor. CONCLUSIONS: Leptin secretion from omental adipose tissue in vitro is: (i) significantly higher in samples from women than in samples from men; and (ii) not correlated with the BMI, showing that in vitro leptin secretion is not related to the adiposity of the donor.

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R Peino, V Pineiro, O Gualillo, C Menendez, J Brenlla, X Casabiell, C Dieguez and FF Casanueva

OBJECTIVE: Leptin secretion is reduced by low temperatures in experimental animals, and this effect has been explained as an adaptive mechanism to cold environments. This study investigated the in vitro effects of cold exposure on human white adipose tissue. DESIGN: To understand whether the low temperature action is a direct or a mediated effect, leptin secretion was assessed in vitro in human omental adipose tissue incubated at varied temperatures, from 38 donors. As an internal control, the effect of reduced temperatures on in vitro GH secretion by GH3 cells was assessed. METHODS: Measurement of hormones secretion was carried out with an RIA, while human ob gene mRNA expression was assessed with reverse transcription PCR. RESULTS: Compared with the standard temperature of 37 degrees C, leptin secretion by human adipose tissue was significantly (P<0.05) reduced when the incubations were carried out at 34.5 degrees C (41% inhibition), and 32 degrees C (68% inhibition), with no parallel changes in the ob mRNA expression. At these reduced temperatures, glucocorticoid-mediated leptin secretion was well preserved. When the effect of reduced temperatures was assessed on in vitro GH secretion, a superimposable reduction was observed. CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate: (i) that low temperatures reduce leptin secretion by acting directly on the adipose tissue and (ii) that the similar reduction in a hormone unrelated to energy metabolism, such as GH, suggests that the observed reduction is a mechanical perturbation of leptin secretion, which may be devoid of physiological implications.

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M Tena-Sempere, L Pinilla, LC Gonzalez, J Navarro, C Dieguez, FF Casanueva and E Aguilar

The obese gene (ob) product, leptin, has recently emerged as a key element in body weight homeostasis, neuroendocrine function and fertility. Identification of biologically active, readily synthesized fragments of the leptin molecule has drawn considerable attention, as they may provide a powerful tool for detailed characterization of the biological actions of leptin in different experimental settings. Recently, a fragment of mouse leptin protein comprising amino acids 116-130, termed leptin(116-130) amide, was shown to mimic the effects of the native molecule in terms of body weight gain and food intake, and to elicit LH and prolactin (PRL) secretion in vivo. As a continuation of our previous experimental work, the present study reports on the effects of leptin(116-130) amide on basal and stimulated testosterone secretion by adult rat testis in vitro. In addition, a comparison of the effects of human recombinant leptin and leptin(116-130) amide at the pituitary level on the patterns of LH, FSH, PRL and GH secretion is presented. As reported previously by our group, human recombinant leptin(10(-9)-10(-7)M) significantly inhibited both basal and human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG)-stimulated testosterone secretion in vitro. Similarly, incubation of testicular tissue in the presence of increasing concentrations of leptin(116-130) amide (10(-9)-10(-5)M) resulted in a dose-dependent inhibition of basal and hCG-stimulated testosterone secretion; a reduction that was significant from a dose of 10(-7)M upwards. In addition, leptin(116-130) amide, at all doses tested (10(-9)-10(-5)M), significantly decreased LH and FSH secretion by incubated hemi-pituitaries from adult male rats. In contrast, in the same experimental protocol, recombinant leptin(10(-9)-10(-7)M) was ineffective in modulating LH and FSH release. Finally, neither recombinant leptin nor leptin(116-130) amide were able to change basal PRL and GH secretion in vitro. Our results confirm the ability of leptin, acting at the testicular level, to inhibit testosterone secretion, and map the effect to a domain of the leptin molecule that lies between amino acid residues 116 and 130. In addition, we provide evidence for a direct inhibitory action of leptin(116-130) amide on pituitary LH and FSH secretion, a phenomenon not observed for the native leptin molecule, in the adult male rat.

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L Pinilla, LM Seoane, L Gonzalez, E Carro, E Aguilar, FF Casanueva and C Dieguez

The aim of this study was to investigate the regulation of serum leptin levels by gender and gonadal steroid milieu. Thus, we measured serum leptin levels by radioimmunoassay in (a) intact male and female rats, (b) female rats at different stages of the estrous cycle and (c) ovariectomized or orchidectomized rats. Gonadectomized groups were or were not implanted with silastic capsules (10 or 30 mm in length, 1.519mm internal diameter; 3.06 mm external diameter) containing estradiol or testosterone and decapitated two weeks later. We found (i) intact female rats weighing 50 g, 250 g and 300 g exhibited higher serum leptin concentrations than intact male rats of similar body weight; (ii) leptin concentrations were not affected by the phase of the estrous cycle; (iii) two weeks after gonadectomy serum leptin concentrations increased in both male (from 4.47+/-1.87 to 8.76+/-1.24 ng/ml) and female (from 1.97+/-0.46 to 5.29+/-0.51 ng/ml) rats. The ovariectomy-induced increase in serum leptin levels was not dependent, at least completely, on changes in body weight since it could be observed when comparisons were made between ovariectomized rats and intact rats in estrus matched for body weight. In contrast the effect of orchidectomy on serum leptin levels appears to be dependent on changes in body weight since it was no longer observed when comparisons were made with a group of intact male rats matched for body weight. In conclusion, these results suggest that serum leptin concentrations are controlled by gonadal function either directly or as a consequence of changes in body weight.

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LM Seoane, SA Tovar, D Perez, F Mallo, M Lopez, R Senaris, FF Casanueva and C Dieguez

BACKGROUND/AIMS: Orexins (OXs) are a newly described family of hypothalamic neuropeptides. Based on the distribution of OX neurons and their receptors in the brain, it has been postulated that they could play a role in the regulation of neuroendocrine function. GH secretion is markedly influenced by nutritional status and body weight. To investigate the role OX-A plays in the neuroregulation of GH secretion we have studied its effect on spontaneous GH secretion as well as GH responses to GHRH and ghrelin in freely moving rats. Finally, we also assessed the effect of OX-A on in vitro GH secretion. METHODS: We administered OX-A (10 microg, i.c.v.) or vehicle (10 microl, i.c.v.) to freely moving rats. Spontaneous GH secretion was assessed over 6 h with blood samples taken every 15 min. RESULTS: Administration of OX-A led to a decrease in spontaneous GH secretion in comparison with vehicle-treated rats, as assessed by mean GH levels (means+/-s.e.m. 4.2+/-1.7 ng/ml vs 9.4+/-2.2 ng/ml; P<0.05), mean GH amplitude (3.6+/-0.5 ng/ml vs 20.8+/-5.6 ng/ml; P<0.01) and area under the curve (848+/-379 ng/ml per 4 h vs 1957+/-458 ng/ml per 4 h; P<0.05). In contrast, OX-A failed to modify in vivo GH responses to GHRH (10 microg/kg, i.v.) although it markedly blunted GH responses to ghrelin (40 microg/kg, i.v.) (mean peak GH levels: 331+/-71 ng/ml, vehicle, vs 43+/-11 ng/ml in OX-A-treated rats; P<0.01). Finally, OX-A infusion (10(-7), 10(-8) or 10(-9) M) failed to modify in vitro basal GH secretion or GH responses to GHRH, ghrelin and KCl. CONCLUSIONS: These data indicate that OX-A plays an inhibitory role in GH secretion and may act as a bridge among the regulatory signals that are involved in the control of growth, nutritional status and sleep regulation.

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MA Tome, M Lage, JP Camina, RV Garcia-Mayor, C Dieguez and FF Casanueva

Sex-based differences in serum leptin concentrations have been reported in adolescence and adulthood. To discover when such differences were generated, serum leptin concentrations were measured in umbilical cord blood from 46 healthy infants and in the mother's blood at delivery. Considering the respective body weights of the mothers and infants (68.5 +/- 1.3 kg and 3.3 +/- 0.0 kg), umbilical cord concentrations of leptin were disproportionately high in the infants (9.4 +/- 1.2 micrograms/l) compared with those in the mothers (18.7 +/- 1.3 micrograms/l). There was a wide variation in the infants leptin values (1.2 +/- 56.8 micrograms/l) that did not correlate with height, weight, cephalic circumference, or any other growth-related parameter. The most striking differences emerged when results were analysed by sex: umbilical cord concentrations of leptin in the girls (12.9 +/- 2.2 micrograms/l) were significantly (P < 0.01) greater than those in the boys (6.8 +/- 0.9 micrograms/l), although no differences in leptin concentrations were observed between the mothers who gave birth to a girl (19.5 +/- 2.2 micrograms/l) and those who gave birth to a boy (18.1 +/- 1.7 micrograms/l). The sex-based differences were not attributable to any growth-related differences between the sexes, except heavier placental weights in the girls (P < 0.007) than in the boys. These differences in leptin concentrations may reflect a sex-based difference in the regulation of leptin production by the fetal adipose tissue.

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A Leal-Cerro, E Garcia, R Astorga, FF Casanueva and C Dieguez

Leal-Cerro A, Garcia E, Astorga R, Casanueva FF, Dieguez C. Growth hormone (GH) responses to the combined administration of GH-releasing hormone plus GH-releasing peptide 6 in adults with GH deficiency. Eur J Endocrinol 1995;132:712–5. ISSN 0804–4643

In recent years the health problems of adults with growth hormone deficiency (GHD) and the benefits of GH replacement therapy have received considerable attention. However, the reliability of conventional GH tests in the assessment of pituitary GH reserve in this group of patients is still controversial. In this study, we assessed GH secretion after the combined administration of GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) (1 μg/kg iv) and GH-releasing peptide 6 (GHRP-6, 1 μg/kg iv) in adult patients diagnosed with GHD by conventional GH testing, and correlate this response with insulin-like growth factor I levels. Twenty-one subjects (13 male, 8 female) with long-standing diagnosis of GHD aged 21–54 years were studied. In 13 subjects GH responses to GHRH plus GHRP-6 were markedly reduced (peak GH response <10 mU/I), whereas in the remaining eight the response was greater (range 11–100 mU/l), In conclusion, our data show that combined administration of GHRH plus GHRP-6 elicited a significant increase in plasma GH levels in about 40% of patients diagnosed with GHD by conventional GH testing.

C Dieguez, PO Box 563, 15700 Santiago de Compostela, Spain