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FASEB J. 2010 Aug;24(8):2670-9. doi: 10.1096/fj.09-150672. Epub 2010 Mar 24.

Ghrelin effects on neuropeptides in the rat hypothalamus depend on fatty acid metabolism actions on BSX but not on gender.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, University of Santiago de Compostela-Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria, Santiago de Compostela (A Coruña), Spain.


The orexigenic effect of ghrelin is mediated by neuropeptide Y (NPY) and agouti-related protein (AgRP) in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARC). Recent evidence also indicates that ghrelin promotes feeding through a mechanism involving activation of hypothalamic AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and inactivation of acetyl-CoA carboxylase and fatty acid synthase (FAS). This results in decreased hypothalamic levels of malonyl-CoA, increased carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1 (CPT1) activity, and mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species. We evaluated whether these molecular events are part of a unique signaling cascade or whether they represent alternative pathways mediating the orexigenic effect of ghrelin. Moreover, we examined the gender dependency of these mechanisms, because recent evidence has proposed that ghrelin orexigenic effect is reduced in female rats. We studied in both genders the effect of ghrelin on the expression of AgRP and NPY, as well as their transcription factors: cAMP response-element binding protein (CREB and its phosphorylated form, pCREB), forkhead box O1 (FoxO1 and its phosphorylated form, pFoxO1), and brain-specific homeobox transcription factor (BSX). In addition, to establish a mechanistic link between ghrelin, fatty acid metabolism, and neuropeptides, we evaluated the effect of ghrelin after blockage of hypothalamic fatty acid beta oxidation, by using the CPT1 inhibitor etomoxir. Ghrelin-induced changes in the AMPK-CPT1 pathway are associated with increased levels of AgRP and NPY mRNA expression through modulation of BSX, pCREB, and FoxO1, as well as decreased expression of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress markers in a gender-independent manner. In addition, blockage of hypothalamic fatty acid beta oxidation prevents the ghrelin-promoting action on AgRP and NPY mRNA expression, also in a gender-independent manner. Notably, this effect is associated with decreased BSX expression and reduced food intake. Overall, our data suggest that BSX integrates changes in neuronal metabolic status with ARC-derived neuropeptides in a gender-independent manner.

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