Ghrelin, the 28 amino acid peptide recently identified as the natural ligand for the growth hormone (GH) secretagogue (GHS) receptor, has multiple activities in addition to stimulation of GH secretion, including stimulation of feeding and weight gain. To utilize these actions for potential therapeutic benefit, we have produced analogs of human ghrelin with enhanced metabolic stability, affinity for the GHS receptor, and efficacy in stimulating weight gain. We have also discovered an analog of ghrelin, BIM-28163, that is an antagonist at the GHS receptor and that fully inhibits GHS receptor activation induced by native ghrelin. In vivo, BIM-28163 does not increase GH secretion but fully blocks ghrelin-induced GH secretion. In contrast, BIM-28163 acts as a full agonist with regard to the ghrelin actions of stimulating weight gain and food intake. These results suggest that a receptor other than the GHS receptor mediates the actions of ghrelin on feeding and weight gain. This concept is strengthened by our observation that at certain hypothalamic sites, BIM-28163 acts as an antagonist of ghrelin-induced neuronal activation, while at other sites, both ghrelin and BIM-28163 induce neuronal activation via the same receptor. Collectively, these results indicate the existence of a novel ghrelin receptor that may regulate the feeding activity of ghrelin. Using BIM-28163 as a tool to define the endogenous role of ghrelin in normal GH secretion, we have demonstrated that antagonism of the GHS receptor in normal rats does not impair the pulsatility of GH secretion but lowers the pulse amplitude and mean GH level. These results demonstrate that endogenous ghrelin acts to amplify the basic pattern of GH secretion established by the interplay of hypothalamic GH-releasing hormone and somatostatin. These studies demonstrate the feasibility of creating ghrelin analogs that are selective for specific activities, as well as their utility in dissecting the role of ghrelin in both normal physiology and specific pathologies.

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Journal European Journal of Endocrinology
Halem, H.A. (Heather A.), Taylor, J.E. (John E.), Dong, J.Z. (Jesse Z.), Shen, Y. (Yeelana), Datta, R. (Rakesh), Abizaid, A, … Culler, M.D. (Michael D.). (2004). Novel analogs of ghrelin: Physiological and clinical implications. European Journal of Endocrinology, 151(SUPPL. 1). doi:10.1530/eje.0.151S071