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J Anim Sci. 2004 Jul;82(7):1957-66.

Effects of exogenous ghrelin on feed intake, weight gain, behavior, and endocrine responses in weanling pigs.

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  • 1Animal Physiology Research Unit, ARS-USDA, Columbia, MO 65211, USA.


The objectives were to determine relative ADG, ADFI, behavior, and endocrine responses in weaned pigs receiving exogenous ghrelin. Twenty-four barrows weaned at 18 d of age (d 0 of the experiment) were catheterized via the jugular vein, weighed, and assigned to either a ghrelin (n = 12) or saline (control; n = 12) infusion group. Initial pig BW did not differ between treatments (7.87+/-0.39 vs. 7.92+/-0.35 kg for ghrelin and control treatments, respectively). Pig BW and feed intakes were measured once daily throughout the experiment. Starting on d 1, the ghrelin pigs were intravenously infused three times daily for 5 d with 2 microg/kg BW of human ghrelin, and the control pigs were similarly infused with saline. Activity observations and blood samples were taken at -15, 0, 15, 30, 60, 90, 120, 240, and 480 min relative to the first infusion and then three times daily (0800, 1600, and 2400) for 8 d. Weight gain during the 5-d infusion period was greater by the ghrelin than by control pigs (0.57+/-0.10 vs. 0.21+/-0.13 kg, respectively; P < 0.04); however, there was no increase in feed intake. During two behavioral observation periods, more pigs in the ghrelin treatment were observed eating compared with control pigs (P < 0.05). The initial infusion of exogenous ghrelin increased serum ghrelin, GH, insulin, and cortisol concentrations (P < 0.05). Endogenous serum ghrelin increased from d 1 to 8 of the experiment in control animals (P < 0.05). Serum IGF-I initially fell in both treatment groups from d 1 to 2 (P < 0.05) but then increased from d 5 to 8 (P < 0.05). Peripheral concentrations of glucose in the ghrelin pigs were greater on d 2, 3, 7, and 8 than on d 1 (P < or = 0.05). In both treatment groups, peripheral concentrations of leptin increased from d 7 to 8, and cortisol decreased from d 1 to 5 of the experiment. These observations provide evidence that ghrelin may positively influence weight gain and concomitantly increase GH, insulin, and cortisol secretion in weaned pigs.

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