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Peptides. 2008 Jul;29(7):1255-70. doi: 10.1016/j.peptides.2008.02.018. Epub 2008 Mar 4.

Ghrelin, des-acyl ghrelin and obestatin: three pieces of the same puzzle.

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Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Porto, 4200-319 Porto, Portugal.


The major active product of ghrelin gene is a 28-amino acid peptide acylated at the serine 3 position with an octanoyl group, called simply ghrelin. Ghrelin has a multiplicity of physiological functions, affecting GH release, food intake, energy and glucose homeostasis, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, pulmonary and immune function, cell proliferation and differentiation and bone physiology. Nevertheless, recent developments have shown that ghrelin gene can generate various bioactive molecules besides ghrelin, mainly des-acyl ghrelin and obestatin, obtained from alternative splicing or from extensive post-translational modification. Although their receptors have not yet been identified, they have already proven to be active, having intriguingly subtle but opposite physiological actions to ghrelin. This suggests the existence of a novel endocrine system with multiple effector elements which not only may have opposite actions but may regulate the action of each other. In this review, we summarize the steps which lead to the production of the different ghrelin gene products and examine the most significant differences between them in terms of structure and actions.

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