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Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2006 Jun;290(6):G1350-8. Epub 2006 Feb 9.

Ghrelin acts on the dorsal vagal complex to stimulate pancreatic protein secretion.

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  • 1Gastroenterology Research Unit, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor, 48109-0682, USA.


Ghrelin receptors are present in the central nervous system. We hypothesized that ghrelin released from the stomach acts as an endocrine substance and stimulates brain stem vagovagal circuitry to evoke pancreatic secretion. In an in vivo anesthetized rat model, an intravenous infusion of ghrelin at doses of 5, 10, and 25 nmol increased pancreatic protein secretion from a basal level of 125 +/- 6 to 186 +/- 8, 295 +/- 12, and 356 +/- 11 mg/h, respectively. Pretreatment with atropine or hexamethonium or an acute vagotomy, but not a perivagal application of capsaicin, completely abolished pancreatic protein secretion responses to ghrelin. In conscious rats, an intravenous infusion of ghrelin at a dose of 10 nmol resulted in a 2.2-fold increase in pancreatic protein secretion over basal volume. Selective ablation of the area postrema abolished pancreatic protein secretion stimulated by intravenous infusion of ghrelin but did not alter the increase in pancreatic protein secretion evoked by diversion of bile-pancreatic juice. Immunohistochemical staining showed a marked increase in the number of c-Fos-expressing neurons in the area postrema, nucleus of the solitary tract, and dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus after an intravenous infusion of ghrelin in sham-lesioned rats; selective ablation of the area postrema eliminated this increase. In conclusion, ghrelin stimulates pancreatic secretion via a vagal cholinergic efferent pathway. Circulating ghrelin gains access to the brain stem vagovagal circuitry via the area postrema, which represents the primary target on which peripheral ghrelin may act as an endocrine substance to stimulate pancreatic secretion.

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