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Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2006 Dec;7(4):237-49.

Role of endogenous ghrelin in growth hormone secretion, appetite regulation and metabolism.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases, Evanston Northwestern Healthcare and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Evanston, IL 60201, USA.


Ghrelin, a 28-amino acid hormone that is acylated post-translation, is the endogenous ligand for the growth hormone (GH) secretagogue (GHS) receptor (GHS-R). The highest concentrations of ghrelin are found in the stomach; however ghrelin peptide is also present in hypothalamic nuclei known to be important in the control of GH and feeding behavior. Exogenous ghrelin potently stimulates pituitary GH release through a mechanism that is dependent, in part, on endogenous GH-releasing hormone. Whether endogenous ghrelin plays a role in the control of GH secretion and growth is not clear and ghrelin deficient animals appear to grow normally. In contrast, experimental animal and clinical data suggest that abnormalities in GHS-R signaling could impact growth. Ghrelin or other GHS are clinically useful for GH-testing and limited data suggest that they might be useful in the treatment of some patients with GH deficiency. Substantial data have implicated ghrelin as an important regulator of feeding behavior and energy equilibrium. Ghrelin has a potent orexigenic effect in both animals and humans and this effect is mediated through hypothalamic neuropeptide Y (NPY) and Agouti-related peptide (AgRP). Appetite simulation coupled with other metabolic effects promotes weight gain during chronic treatment with ghrelin. These metabolic effects are in part mediated through an increase in respiratory quotient (VQ). Presence of ghrelin appears to be necessary for the development of obesity in some animal models. Whether abnormalities in ghrelin signaling are involved in human obesity is not yet known.

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