Novel ghrelin analogs with improved affinity for the GH secretagogue receptor stimulate GH and prolactin release from human pituitary cells

H. Rubinfeld, M. Hadani, J. E. Taylor, J. Z. Dong, J. Comstock, J. Shen, D. DeOliveira, R. Datta, M. D. Culler, Ilan Shimon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Ghrelin, a recently identified 28-amino acid peptide is a potent GH secretagogue (GHS) produced predominantly by the stomach. Ghrelin stimulates GH secretion through binding to the GHS receptor in the hypothalamus and pituitary. In addition to the GH-releasing action, ghrelin has been found to be a powerful orexigenic factor. To assess the direct in vitro effects of ghrelin on human pituitary hormone secretion we have produced a panel of novel ghrelin analogs (molecular weight, 3323-3384; human native ghrelin, 3371) with enhanced affinity for the human GHS receptor (IC50 0.38-1.09 nM; human ghrelin, 1.2-2.2 nM). Methods: The peptidic analogs were tested for their effect on GH secretion using dispersed human fetal pituitaries (21 to 23 weeks of gestation) and cultured GH- and prolactin (PRL)-secreting adenomas. The expression of the GHS receptor in normal (fetal and adult) human pituitary tissues, GH- and PRL- cell adenomas was established using RT-PCR. Results: The effects of ghrelin, its analogs and GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) alone or in combination on GH and PRL secretion were compared at various concentrations. The ghrelin analogs stimulated GH release by 35-60% from human fetal pituitary cells (1-10 nM; P < 0.05) and by 50-75% from cultured pituitary adenomas (10 nM; P < 0.05). This releasing effect was dose-dependent, achieving maximal stimulation with analog concentrations at 100 nM. Human ghrelin was less potent as compared with its analogs in stimulating human GH, in keeping with the improved binding affinity of the analogs for the GHS-1a receptor. The ghrelin analogs and GHRH had comparable effects on GH secretion from both normal and adenomatous cells, and in combination produced an additive stimulatory effect on GH (150%; P < 0.0001). In contrast, ghrelin and its analogs induced a comparable increase in PRL release ranging between 25 and 40% (P < 0.05) from fetal cells and 30 and 70% (P < 0.001) from cultured PRL-cell and mixed GH-PRL adenomas. Conclusions: Our results have demonstrated for the first time that ghrelin analogs with enhanced affinity for the GHS receptor are potent stimulators of GH secretion from human pituitary cells, and thus may possess potential clinical therapeutic benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)787-795
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Endocrinology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2004


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