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Y Nakai, H Hosoda, K Nin, C Ooya, H Hayashi, T Akamizu, and K Kangawa

OBJECTIVE: Ghrelin is an acylated peptide, whose octanoyl modification is essential for its biological activities. Previous studies demonstrated that fasting plasma ghrelin levels were high in anorectic patients, suggesting ghrelin may play an important role in the pathophysiology of anorexia nervosa. However, antibodies used in previous work to measure ghrelin concentrations in human blood do not distinguish between the active form of ghrelin (active ghrelin) and desacyl ghrelin with no biological activities. Therefore, we studied plasma levels of active ghrelin during oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) in anorectic patients, using a radioimmunoassay (RIA) specific for active ghrelin. METHODS: Active ghrelin response to OGTT was evaluated in five female anorectic patients and seven age-matched control females. All subjects were given a 75 g/225 ml glucose solution orally after overnight fasting. For RIA of active ghrelin, 1 N hydrogen chloride was added to the samples at final concentration of 0.1 N immediately after separation of plasma. RESULTS: Plasma basal levels of active ghrelin were significantly higher in anorectic patients than in controls (52.1+/-10.5 vs 21.2+/-3.1 fmol/ml, P<0.01). They were significantly decreased during OGTT in anorectic patients and in controls, reaching a nadir of 49.0+/-7.7% and 57.3+/-4.5% of the basal levels, respectively. CONCLUSION: These results suggest that hyperghrelinemia in anorectic patients is caused at least partly by increased secretion of active ghrelin and that glucose ingestion suppresses active ghrelin release in these patients.

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O Gualillo, JE Caminos, M Kojima, K Kangawa, E Arvat, E Ghigo, FF Casanueva, and C Dieguez

OBJECTIVE: The recently isolated endogenous GH secretagogue, named ghrelin, is a gastric peptide of 28 amino acids with an n-octanoylation in the serine 3 that confers the biological activity to this factor. Ghrelin has been shown to directly stimulate GH release in vivo and in vitro and to be involved in the regulation of gastric acid secretion and motility. In the present work we have studied gender and gonadal dependency of ghrelin mRNA expression in rat stomach. DESIGN AND METHODS: We analysed ghrelin mRNA expression in rat stomach by Northern blot analysis. We also examined the effect of gonadal steroid deprivation on ghrelin mRNA expression. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: The results obtained showed clearly that ghrelin gastric mRNA expression increased with age in young rats (up to 90 days old) but exhibited no significant sex difference at each age tested. Ghrelin mRNA levels were lowest at postnatal day 9, reaching a stable level of expression at day 40 in both female and male rats, although the increase in female rats appears much more gradual than that in males. Moreover, neither ovariectomy nor orchidectomy significantly modified ghrelin mRNA gastric levels in adult rats. In conclusion, these data indicate that ghrelin mRNA expression is associated with age and that a progressive increase is present from the perinatal period up to a stable level after puberty. Gonadal hormones did not alter ghrelin mRNA levels. Taken together, these data showed that ghrelin mRNA levels in young rats are age but not gender dependent, and are not influenced by gonadal steroids.

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R Dall, J Kanaley, TK Hansen, N Moller, JS Christiansen, H Hosoda, K Kangawa, and JO Jorgensen

OBJECTIVE: To characterise plasma levels of the recently identified endogenous ligand for the GH secretagogue receptor (ghrelin) during submaximal aerobic exercise in healthy adults and in GH-deficient adults. DESIGN: Eight healthy males (mean+/-s.e. age, 40.8+/-2.9 years) and eight hypopituitary males with verified GH deficiency (mean+/-s.e. age, 40.8+/-4.7 years) underwent a baseline test of their peak aerobic capacity (VO(2) peak) and lactate threshold (LT) on a cycle ergometer, as well as an evaluation of body composition. The patients were then studied on two occasions in random order when they exercised for 45 min at their LT. On one occasion, GH replacement had been discontinued from the evening before, whereas on the other occasion they received their evening GH in addition to an intravenous infusion of GH (0.4 IU) during exercise the following day. The healthy subjects exercised at their LT on one occasion without GH. RESULTS: The patients were significantly more obese and had lower VO(2) max (corrected for body weight) and LT as compared with the control subjects. Exercise induced a peak in serum GH concentrations after 45 min in the control group (11.43+/-3.61 microg/l). Infusion of GH in the patients resulted in a peak level after 45 min, whereas no increase was detected when exercising without GH (9.77+/-2.40 (GH) vs 0.11+/-0.07 microg/l (no GH)). Plasma ghrelin levels did not change significantly with time in either study, and no correlations were detected between ghrelin levels and parameters such as GH and IGF-I levels, age or body composition. Plasma ghrelin levels were significantly lower during the study period with GH as compared with the study with no GH. CONCLUSIONS: Submaximal aerobic exercise of an intensity sufficient to stimulate GH release was not associated with significant alterations in plasma ghrelin concentrations, which indicated that systemic ghrelin is not involved in the exercise-induced stimulation of GH secretion. The observation that ghrelin levels were lower during GH replacement suggests that GH may feedback-inhibit systemic ghrelin release.

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T Akamizu, K Takaya, T Irako, H Hosoda, S Teramukai, A Matsuyama, H Tada, K Miura, A Shimizu, M Fukushima, M Yokode, K Tanaka, and K Kangawa

OBJECTIVE: It has been demonstrated that ghrelin plays a major role in the regulation of GH secretion and food intake. These actions make ghrelin a strong candidate for the treatment of GH deficiency, anorexia and cachexia. However, only preliminary studies have been performed to assess ghrelin administration in humans. In this study, we have conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial to investigate the pharmacokinetics, safety, and endocrine and appetite effects of ghrelin in young healthy volunteers. DESIGN: Eighteen male volunteers were randomly assigned into three groups of six subjects: low- and high-dose ghrelin groups, who received intravenous injections of 1 and 5 microg/kg ghrelin (acylated form) respectively, and a placebo group who were injected with mannitol instead of ghrelin. RESULTS: Acylated ghrelin disappeared more rapidly from plasma than total ghrelin, with elimination half life (t(1/2)) of 9-13 and 27-31 min respectively. The number of subjects that experienced adverse effects did not significantly differ among the three groups, and all adverse effects were transient and well tolerated. Both the low and high doses of ghrelin strongly stimulated GH release (peak plasma concentration (C(max,0-90 min)): 124.2+/-63.9 and 153.2+/-52.2 ng/ml for 1 and 5 microg/kg ghrelin respectively). Slight alterations of blood glucose and insulin levels after the injection were observed. Although not statistically significant, ghrelin administration tended to increase hunger sensation in a dose-dependent manner. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that ghrelin is safe, and that clinical trials may be started to assess the usefulness of ghrelin for the treatment of disorders related to GH secretion and appetite.

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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.

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R Takeno, Y Okimura, G Iguchi, M Kishimoto, T Kudo, K Takahashi, Y Takahashi, H Kaji, M Ohno, H Ikuta, Y Kuroda, T Obara, H Hosoda, K Kangawa, and K Chihara

OBJECTIVE: Ghrelin is a potent peptide stimulating GH secretion. Besides its direct action on the pituitary, ghrelin has been reported to stimulate GH release via the vagal afferent nerve in rats. To examine the involvement of vagal nerve in ghrelin-induced GH secretion in humans, GH responses to ghrelin were compared between vagotomized patients with gastrectomy and normal subjects. METHODS: Ghrelin (0.2 microg/kg) or GHRH (1 microg/kg) was administered intravenously in vagotomized patients and normal subjects on separate days, and plasma GH responses to the stimuli were examined. RESULTS: Ghrelin caused a significant plasma GH rise in both vagotomized patients and normal subjects. Peak GH levels in vagotomized patients (37.5+/-16.9 ng/ml) were not different from those in normal subjects (29.9+/-23.1 ng/ml). The areas under the curve of GH response to ghrelin did not differ between the two groups. GHRH also increased GH levels, and peak GH levels and areas under the curve after GHRH stimulation were also comparable between vagotomized patients and normal subjects. CONCLUSIONS: In the present study, the involvement of the afferent vagal nerve in ghrelin-induced GH secretion was not confirmed in humans.