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Gut Liver. 2013 Sep;7(5):505-12. doi: 10.5009/gnl.2013.7.5.505. Epub 2013 Aug 14.

Role of ghrelin in the pathophysiology of gastrointestinal disease.

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Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Prince of Wales Hospital, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.


Ghrelin is a 28-amino-acid peptide that plays multiple roles in humans and other mammals. The functions of ghrelin include food intake regulation, gastrointestinal (GI) motility, and acid secretion by the GI tract. Many GI disorders involving infection, inflammation, and malignancy are also correlated with altered ghrelin production and secretion. Although suppressed ghrelin responses have already been observed in various GI disorders, such as chronic gastritis, Helicobacter pylori infection, irritable bowel syndrome, functional dyspepsia, and cachexia, elevated ghrelin responses have also been reported in celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Moreover, we recently reported that decreased fasting and postprandial ghrelin levels were observed in female patients with functional dyspepsia compared with healthy subjects. These alterations of ghrelin responses were significantly correlated with meal-related symptoms (bloating and early satiation) in female functional dyspepsia patients. We therefore support the notion that abnormal ghrelin responses may play important roles in various GI disorders. Furthermore, human clinical trials and animal studies involving the administration of ghrelin or its receptor agonists have shown promising improvements in gastroparesis, anorexia, and cancer. This review summarizes the impact of ghrelin, its family of peptides, and its receptors on GI diseases and proposes ghrelin modulation as a potential therapy.


Gastrointestinal tract; Ghrelin; Ghrelin O-acyltransferase; Receptors, ghrelin

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