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C Folwaczny, JK Chang and M Tschop

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B Otto, M Tschop, W Heldwein, AF Pfeiffer and S Diederich

OBJECTIVE: The orexigenic and adipogenic peptide hormone ghrelin is predominantly produced and secreted by the stomach and seems to transduce changes in food intake to specific neuronal circuits in the brain. The activity of ghrelin also includes stimulatory effects on the corticotropic system. However, little is known about the influence of glucocorticoids on ghrelin levels. We therefore studied human plasma ghrelin levels in the presence and absence of elevated glucocorticoid levels of either endogenous or exogenous origin. METHODS: Plasma ghrelin levels were measured in five patients with chronic hypercortisolism (aged 29-58, median 46 years) due to Cushing's syndrome before and after successful surgery for the adenoma, and in eight healthy controls (aged 24-39, median 27.5 years) before and after 30 mg prednisolone (for 5 days) once a day in the morning (median body mass index (BMI) 22.7 kg/m(2)). Plasma ghrelin levels were measured with a commercially available radioimmunoassay. RESULTS: In patients with Cushing's syndrome, plasma ghrelin levels were low (median 363.2 pg/ml, range 161.9-525.7 pg/ml) and significantly increased by 26.6% (P=0.04) after successful surgery, while BMI decreased (median 26.2-24.0 kg/m(2), P=0.04). A strong negative correlation (r=-0.9, P=0.04) between changes in BMI and plasma ghrelin was observed. In healthy controls, plasma ghrelin levels (median 288.7 pg/ml, range 119.6-827.8 pg/ml) were significantly suppressed by 18.3% (P=0.04) after prednisolone treatment. CONCLUSIONS: We have shown for the first time that plasma ghrelin levels are decreased under endogenously or exogenously induced hypercortisolism, making ghrelin an unlikely candidate for causing the changes in energy balance or body composition characteristic of Cushing's disease. However, the reduced ghrelin secretion could reflect a compensation mechanism in reaction to the metabolic consequences of chronic hypercortisolism.

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M Tschop, H Lahner, H Feldmeier, H Grasberger, KM Morrison, OE Janssen, AF Attanasio and CJ Strasburger

OBJECTIVE: To determine if human growth hormone (hGH) replacement therapy alters pharmacokinetics of hydrocortisone (CS) substitution in hypopituitary adults. DESIGN: To this aim, we analysed serum and salivary CS profiles 270 min after oral CS administration at baseline and 6 and 12 months after initiation of hGH replacement therapy. METHODS: Serum IGF-I, cortisol-binding globulin (CBG), thyroxine-binding globulin (TBG) and sex hormone-binding hormone (SHBG) were measured using commercially available radioimmunoassays. In-house immunofluorometric assays were employed for measurements of CS and hGH. RESULTS: hGH replacement did not change total serum CS bioavailability (area under the serum cortisol profile curve). Interference of orally administered CS with salivary measurement of free CS (fCS) caused significant bias. Therefore, fCS levels were calculated from their total CS and cortisol-binding globulin (CBG) levels. CBG decreased by approximately 30% after both 6 and 12 months of hGH replacement therapy (n=20, P<0.01). A significant negative correlation between deltaCBG (CBG6months-CBGbaseline) and deltaIGF-I (IGF-I6months-IGF-Ibaseline) was observed (P=0.04). The calculated values of free CS tended to increase with physiological hGH replacement, but this effect was marginal and did not reach statistical significance. In contrast to the CBG concentrations, plasma levels of sex hormone-binding globulin and thyroxine-binding globulin were essentially stable. CONCLUSION: Given that no clinically relevant alterations in pharmacokinetics of CS were evoked by initiation of hGH replacement in hypopituitary adults, we conclude that CS substitution does not require dose adjustment after initiation of hGH replacement.

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B Otto, U Cuntz, E Fruehauf, R Wawarta, C Folwaczny, RL Riepl, ML Heiman, P Lehnert, M Fichter and M Tschop

OBJECTIVE: Ghrelin is a new gastric hormone that has been identified as an endogenous ligand for the growth hormone (GH) secretagogue receptor subtype 1a (GHS-R1a). Ghrelin administration however not only stimulates GH secretion but also induces adiposity in rodents by increasing food intake and decreasing fat utilization. We hypothesized that impaired ghrelin secretion in anorexia nervosa may be involved in the pathogenesis of this eating disorder. To examine this hypothesis and to further investigate the role for ghrelin in regulating energy homeostasis, we analyzed circulating ghrelin levels in patients with anorexia nervosa and examined possible correlations with clinical parameters before and after weight gain. METHODS: Plasma ghrelin levels were measured in overnight fasting plasma samples from 36 female patients with anorexia nervosa (age: 25.0+/-1.2 years, BMI: 15.2+/-0.2 kg/m(2)) before and after weight gain following psychotherapeutic treatment intervention in a psychosomatic institution. Plasma ghrelin levels were also measured in fasting plasma samples from 24 age-matched female controls (31+/-1.4 years, BMI: 22.9+/-0.45 kg/m(2)). For quantification of ghrelin levels a commercially available radioimmunoassay (Phoenix Pharmaceuticals, USA) was used. RESULTS: Fasting plasma ghrelin levels in anorectic patients were significantly higher (1057+/-95 pg/ml) than in normal age-matched female controls (514+/-63 pg/ml n=24, P=0.02). Therapeutic intervention in a psychosomatic institution caused an BMI increase of 14% (P<0.001) leading to a significant decrease in circulating ghrelin levels of 25%, (P=0.001). A significant negative correlation between Deltaghrelin and DeltaBMI was observed (correlation coefficient: -0.47, P=0.005, n=36). CONCLUSION: We show for the first time that fasting plasma levels of the novel appetite-modulating hormone ghrelin are elevated in anorexia nervosa and return to normal levels after partial weight recovery. These observations suggest the possible existence of ghrelin resistance in cachectic states such as caused by eating disorders. Future studies are necessary to investigate putative mechanisms of ghrelin resistance such as a possible impairment of intracellular ghrelin receptor signaling in pathophysiological states presenting with cachexia.

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M A Arafat, B Otto, H Rochlitz, M Tschöp, V Bähr, M Möhlig, S Diederich, J Spranger and A F H Pfeiffer

Objective: It is well known that i.m. glucagon administration stimulates GH and cortisol release in humans, although the mechanisms are unclear. These effects are similar to those described for ghrelin on somatotroph and corticotroph function. The aim of the present study was to investigate the role of ghrelin in mediating the stimulatory effects of glucagon and to evaluate the effect of glucagon on ghrelin secretion.

Design and methods: We studied the endocrine and metabolic response to i.m. glucagon administration in 24 subjects (14 men, 10 women; age 19–65 years; body mass index, 25.3 ± 1 kg/m2), who were shown to have an intact anterior pituitary function as evaluated before enclosure.

Results: Serum ghrelin concentrations fell significantly at 30, 60, 120 and 180 min after glucagon administration (means ± s.e.m.; baseline, 377.9 ± 34.5 pg/ml; nadir, 294.6 ± 28.3 pg/ml (60 min); P < 0.01). Conversely, i.m. glucagon elicited an increase in GH (baseline, 1.5 ± 0.4 μg/l; peak, 14.2 ± 2.7 μg/l (180 min); P < 0.01) and cortisol concentrations (baseline, 452.6 ± 35.2 nmol/l; peak, 622.1 ± 44 nmol/l (180 min); P < 0.01). The changes in ghrelin concentration at both 120 and 180 min were still significant after correction for glucose and insulin (P < 0.05).

Conclusions: We show that i.m. glucagon decreases ghrelin significantly. Therefore, the already known stimulatory effects of i.m. glucagon on cortisol and GH are not mediated by a change in ghrelin concentrations. The mechanisms underlying the ghrelin suppression after i.m. glucagon are unlikely to include glucose or insulin variations and need to be further elucidated.

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Jenny Tong, Nimita Dave, Ganesh M Mugundu, Harold W Davis, Bruce D Gaylinn, Michael O Thorner, Matthias H Tschöp, David D'Alessio and Pankaj B Desai


Ghrelin stimulates GH secretion and regulates energy and glucose metabolism. The two circulating isoforms, acyl (AG) and des-acyl (DAG) ghrelin, have distinct metabolic effects and are under active investigation for their therapeutic potentials. However, there is only limited data on the pharmacokinetics of AG and DAG.


To evaluate key pharmacokinetic parameters of AG, DAG, and total ghrelin in healthy men and women.


In study 1, AG (1, 3, and 5 μg/kg per h) was infused over 65 min in 12 healthy (8 F/4 M) subjects in randomized order. In study 2, AG (1 μg/kg per h), DAG (4 μg/kg per h), or both were infused over 210 min in ten healthy individuals (5 F/5 M). Plasma AG and DAG were measured using specific two-site ELISAs (study 1 and 2), and total ghrelin with a commercial RIA (study 1). Pharmacokinetic parameters were estimated by non-compartmental analysis.


After the 1, 3, and 5 μg/kg per h doses of AG, there was a dose-dependent increase in the maximum concentration (C max) and area under the curve (AUC(0–last)) of AG and total ghrelin. Among the different AG doses, there was no difference in the elimination half-life, systemic clearance (CL), and volume of distribution. DAG had decreased CL relative to AG. The plasma DAG:AG ratio was ∼2:1 during steady-state infusion of AG. Infusion of AG caused an increase in DAG, but DAG administration did not change plasma AG. Ghrelin administration did not affect plasma acylase activity.


The pharmacokinetics of AG and total ghrelin appears to be linear and proportional in the dose range tested. AG and DAG have very distinct metabolic fates in the circulation. There is deacylation of AG in the plasma but no evidence of acylation.