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Regul Pept. 2012 Jan 10;173(1-3):27-35. doi: 10.1016/j.regpep.2011.09.001. Epub 2011 Oct 1.

Role of the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) signaling pathway in the orexigenic effects of endogenous ghrelin.

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Translational Research Center for Gastrointestinal Disorders, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium.


Ghrelin, released from the stomach, stimulates food intake through activation of the ghrelin receptor (GHS-R) located on neuropeptide Y (NPY)/agouti-related peptide (AgRP) neurons in the hypothalamus. A role for the energy sensor AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and its downstream effector uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) in the stimulatory effect of exogenous ghrelin on NPY/AgRP expression and food intake has been suggested. This study aimed to investigate whether a rise in endogenous ghrelin levels is able to influence hypothalamic AMPK activity, pACC, UCP2 and NPY/AgRP expression through activation of GHS-R. An increase in endogenous ghrelin levels was established by fasting (24h) or by induction of streptozotocin(STZ)-diabetes (15 days) in GHS-R(+/+) and GHS-R(-/-) mice. GHS-R(+/+) mice showed a significant increase in AgRP and NPY mRNA expression after fasting, which was not observed in GHS-R(-/-) mice. Fasting did not affect AMPK activity nor ACC phosphorylation in both genotypes and increased UCP2 mRNA expression. The hyperghrelinemia associated with STZ-induced diabetes was accompanied by an increased NPY and AgRP expression in GHS-R(+/+) but not in GHS-R(-/-) mice. AMPK activity and UCP2 expression in GHS-R(+/+) mice after induction of diabetes were decreased to a similar extent in both genotypes. Exogenous ghrelin administration tended to decrease hypothalamic AMPK activity. In conclusion, an increase in endogenous ghrelin levels triggered by fasting or STZ-induced diabetes stimulates the expression of AgRP and NPY via interaction with the GHS-R. The changes in AMPK activity, pACC and UCP2 occur independently from GHS-R suggesting that they do not play a major role in the orexigenic effect of endogenous ghrelin.

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