Ghrelin is a growth hormone-releasing acylated peptide from stomach. The purified peptide consist of 28 amino acids in which the serine 3 residue is n-octanoylated. Ghrelin has been reported to increase in vitro GH secretion as well as in vivo plasma GH levels in pentobarbital anaesthetized rats. The aim of this work was to characterize the stimulatory effect of Ghrelin on in vivo GH secretion in freely-moving rats. Furthermore, we compare the effect of Ghrelin with GHRH. In addition to vehicle, we administered different doses of Ghrelin (3 nmol/Kg, 12 nmol/Kg and 60 nmol/Kg); GHRH (3 nmol/Kg and 12 nmol/kg). Plasma GH levels were measured in blood samples taken at 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 and 45 min after their administration as an i.v. bolus at 0 min. Administration of Ghrelin led to an increase in plasma GH levels at all time-points tested (5, 10, 15, 20 and 30 min, P<0.01; and 45 min, P<0.05) in comparison to control untreated rats. A maximal stimulatory effect on plasma GH was observed following administration of 12 nmol/Kg of Ghrelin, the effect being similar to the one obtained with 60 nmol/Kg in terms of both AUC and mean peak GH levels. At the dose of 3 nmol/Kg GHRH and Ghrelin exhibited a similar stimulatory effect in term of both, AUC and mean peak GH levels. However following administration of a dose of 12 nmol/Kg, the effect of Ghrelin was much greater than the same dose of GHRH in terms of both AUC and mean peak GH levels. In summary, this study provides the first evidences that Ghrelin exert a marked stimulatory effect in plasma GH levels in freely-moving rats and provides further evidences that Ghrelin may play an important role in the physiological control of GH secretion.
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