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Front Neuroendocrinol. 2000 Oct;21(4):330-48.

Growth hormone in the brain: characteristics of specific brain targets for the hormone and their functional significance.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.


During the past decade studies have shown that growth hormone (GH) may exert profound effects on the central nervous system (CNS). For instance, GH replacement therapy was found to improve the psychological capabilities in adult GH deficient (GHD) patients. Furthermore, beneficial effects of the hormone on certain functions, including memory, mental alertness, motivation, and working capacity, have been reported. Likewise, GH treatment of GHD children has been observed to produce significant improvement in many behavioral problems seen in these individuals. Studies also indicated that GH therapy affects the cerebrospinal fluid levels of various hormones and neurotransmitters. Further support that the CNS is a target for GH emerges from observations indicating that the hormone may cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and from studies confirming the presence of GH receptors in the brain. It was previously shown that specific binding sites for GH are present in discrete areas in the CNS of both humans and rats. Among these regions are the choroid plexus, hippocampus, hypothalamus, and spinal cord. The density of GH binding in the various brain regions was found to decline with increasing age. More recently, we were able to clone and determine the structure of several GH receptors in the rat and human brain. Although the brain receptor proteins for the hormone were shown to differ in molecular size compared to those present in peripheral tissues the corresponding transcripts did not seem to differ from their peripheral congeners. GH receptors in the hypothalamus are likely to be involved in the regulatory mechanism for hormone secretion and those located in the choroid plexus have been suggested to have a role in the receptor-mediated transport of GH across the BBB. The functions mediated by the GH receptors identified in the hippocampus are not yet known but recently it was speculated that they may be involved in the hormone's action on memory and cognitive functions.

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