Role Ghrelin in Anorexia, Appetite, Growth and Metabolic Disorders in Children
Widodo Judarwanto. Picky Eaters & Grow Up Clinic, Jakarta Indonesia
Ghrelin is a 28 amino-acid brain-gut peptide that is well-known for its orexigenic and metabolic effects leading to an overall positive energy balance. It stimulates appetite and growth hormone release via the GHS-R1a receptors. GOAT has been identified as the enzyme that acylates ghrelin, which is important for its endocrine function. The ghrelin/GHS-R/GOAT system has been studied extensively in view of its association with several endocrine diseases and the potential of developing an effective treatment. These include obesity, Prader-Willi syndrome, anorexia nervosa and diabetes mellitus. Ghrelin system has also been associated with growth and stature. All these conditions can affect children and have a significant impact on the quality of health and life prognosis. There is the association of ghrelin with appetite, growth and metabolic disorders in children.
Ghrelin, a hormone primarily produced by the stomach, has a wide range of metabolic and non-metabolic effects. It also stimulates food intake through activation of various hypothalamic and brain stem neurons. A series of recent studies have explored the intracellular mechanisms of the appetite-inducing effect of ghrelin in the hypothalamus, shedding light on the intricate mechanisms of appetite regulation. AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a key metabolic enzyme involved in appetite regulation. Calmodulin kinase kinase 2 (CaMKK2) has been identified as an upstream kinase of AMPK and a key mediator in the effect of ghrelin on AMPK activity. The fatty acid pathway, hypothalamic mitochondrial respiration, and uncoupling protein 2 have been outlined as downstream targets of AMPK and mediators of ghrelin’s appetite stimulating effect.
Obesity is one of the most important health threats to the Western world, and the physiology of appetite-regulating hormones has become a major interest in the last decades. One of the orexigenic hormones, ghrelin is the stomach-derived “brain-gut” peptide, which stimulates energy consumption and storage. Ghrelin promotes gluconeogenesis and adipose tissue deposition. Endocannabinoids, such as anandamide and 2-arachydoglycerol, are lipid-like neurotransmitter molecules activating the cannabinoid receptors. Endocannabinoids, apart from the well-known psychological effects, cause an increase in appetite, and they peripherally promote de novo fatty acid synthesis and gluconeogenesis. Adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is an energy-sensing kinase, which responds to changes in the energy levels of the cell and the whole body in order to maintain adequate ATP levels in the cell. Recently, several hormones have been shown to regulate AMPK activity, and interestingly in a strictly tissue-specific manner. Orexigenic agents such as ghrelin and cannabinoids stimulate hypothalamic AMPK leading to increase in appetite while inhibiting AMPK activity in the liver and adipose tissue, therefore leading to lipogenic and diabetogenic effects.
Since its discovery, many physiologic functions have been ascribed to ghrelin, a gut derived hormone. The presence of a median fatty acid side chain on the ghrelin peptide is required for the binding and activation of the classical ghrelin receptor, the growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHSR)-1a. Ghrelin O-acyl transferase (GOAT) was recently discovered as the enzyme responsible for this acylation process. GOAT is expressed in all tissues that have been found to express ghrelin and has demonstrated actions on several complex endocrine organ systems such as the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal, insular and adrenal axis as well as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, bone and gustatory system. Ghrelin acylation is dependent on the function of GOAT and the availability of substrates such as proghrelin and short- to medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). This process is governed by GOAT activity and has been shown to be modified by dietary lipids. In this review, we provided evidence that support an important role of GOAT in the regulation of energy homeostasis and glucose metabolism by modulating acyl ghrelin (AG) production. The relevance of GOAT and AG during periods of starvation remains to be defined. The recent literature on the metabolic effects of GOAT specific inhibitors and shared our view on the potential of targeting GOAT for the treatment of metabolic disorders such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Ghrelin is a brain-gut peptide that was discovered through reverse pharmacology and was first isolated from extracts of porcine stomach. Ghrelin binds to growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHS-R) and is acylated on its serine 3 residue by ghrelin O-acyltransferase (GOAT). Several important biological functions of ghrelin have been identified, which include its growth hormone-releasing and appetite-inducing effects. Ghrelin exerts its central orexigenic effect mainly by acting on the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus via the activation of the GHS-R. Peripherally ghrelin has multiple metabolic effects which include promoting gluconeogenesis and fat deposition. These effects together with the increased food intake lead to an overall body weight gain. AMP-activated protein kinase, which is a key enzyme in energy homeostasis, has been shown to mediate the central and peripheral metabolic effects of ghrelin.
The hypothalamic fatty acid pathway, hypothalamic mitochondrial respiration and uncoupling protein 2 have all been shown to act as the downstream targets of AMPK in mediating the orexigenic effects of ghrelin. Abnormal levels of ghrelin are associated with several metabolic conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, Prader-Willi syndrome and anorexia nervosa. The ghrelin/GOAT/GHS-R system is now recognised as a potential target for the development of anti-obesity treatment.
Ghrelin is a circulating growth-hormone-releasing and appetite-inducing brain-gut peptide. It is a known natural ligand of the growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHS-R). Ghrelin is acylated on its serine 3 residue by ghrelin O-acyltransferase (GOAT). The acylation is essential for its orexigenic and adipogenic effects. Ghrelin exerts its central orexigenic effect through activation of various hypothalamic and brain stem neurons. Several new intracellular targets/mediators of the appetite-inducing effect of ghrelin in the hypothalamus have recently been identified, including the AMP-activated protein kinase, its upstream kinase calmodulin kinase kinase 2, components of the fatty acid pathway and the uncoupling protein 2. The ghrelin/GOAT/GHS-R system is now recognised as a potential target for the development of anti-obesity treatment. Ghrelin regulates the function of the anterior pituitary through stimulation of secretion not only of growth hormone, but also of adrenocorticotrophin and prolactin.
A breakthrough using “reverse pharmacology” identified and characterized acyl ghrelin from the stomach as the endogenous cognate ligand for the growth hormone (GH) secretagogue receptor (GHS-R) 1a. The unique post-translational modification of O-n-octanoylation at serine 3 is the first in peptide discovery history and is essential for GH-releasing ability. Des-acyl ghrelin, lacking O-n-octanoylation at serine 3, is also produced in the stomach and remains the major molecular form secreted into the circulation.
The third ghrelin gene product, obestatin, a novel 23-amino acid peptide identified from rat stomach, was found by comparative genomic analysis. Three ghrelin gene products actively participate in modulating appetite, adipogenesis, gut motility, glucose metabolism, cell proliferation, immune, sleep, memory, anxiety, cognition, and stress. Knockdown or knockout of acyl ghrelin and/or GHS-R1a, and overexpression of des-acyl ghrelin show benefits in the therapy of obesity and metabolic syndrome. By contrast, agonism of acyl ghrelin and/or GHS-R1a could combat human anorexia-cachexia, including anorexia nervosa, chronic heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, liver cirrhosis, chronic kidney disease, burn, and postsurgery recovery, as well as restore gut dysmotility, such as diabetic or neurogenic gastroparesis, and postoperative ileus.
The ghrelin acyl-modifying enzyme, ghrelin O-Acyltransferase (GOAT), which attaches octanoate to serine-3 of ghrelin, has been identified and characterized also from the stomach. To date, ghrelin is the only protein to be octanylated, and inhibition of GOAT may have effects only on the stomach and is unlikely to affect the synthesis of other proteins. GOAT may provide a critical molecular target in developing novel therapeutics for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Ghrelin control of GH secretion and feeding behaviour
Energy homeostasis is controlled by a complex regulatory system of molecules that affect food intake and that are critical for maintaining a stable body weight during life. Ghrelin is a peptide of 28 amino acid synthesized predominantly by the stomach and the gut, which activate the type 1a growth hormone (GH) secretagogue receptor (GHS-R1a), a G-protein coupled receptor.
The acylated form of ghrelin potently stimulates GH secretion both in vitro and in vivo in several animal species, including humans. Beside the endocrine effect, ghrelin shows also extraendocrine activities, including stimulation of feeding behaviour. Several classes of small synthetic peptide and non-peptide ligands of the GHS-R1a have been described and are able to release GH and stimulate food intake. However, in time, it appeared that the stimulating effects on GH secretion could be divorced from those on food intake, suggesting that more than a single receptor might be involved. Several experimental data have even questioned the physiological role of ghrelin in the control of GH secretion and energy metabolism. By using novel agonists, partial agonists, and antagonists for the GHS-R1a receptor, we have studied whether the stimulation of this receptor could account for the purported physiological role of ghrelin. The ability to bind in vitro the GHS-R1a is not predictive of the in vivo biological activity of the compounds and that the endocrine and extraendocrine effects could be mediated also by receptors different from the GHS-R1a.
Ghrelin acylation and metabolic control.
Since its discovery, many physiologic functions have been ascribed to ghrelin, a gut derived hormone. The presence of a median fatty acid side chain on the ghrelin peptide is required for the binding and activation of the classical ghrelin receptor, the growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHSR)-1a.
Ghrelin O-acyl transferase (GOAT) was recently discovered as the enzyme responsible for this acylation process. GOAT is expressed in all tissues that have been found to express ghrelin and has demonstrated actions on several complex endocrine organ systems such as the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal, insular and adrenal axis as well as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, bone and gustatory system. Ghrelin acylation is dependent on the function of GOAT and the availability of substrates such as proghrelin and short- to medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). This process is governed by GOAT activity and has been shown to be modified by dietary lipids. In this review, we provided evidence that support an important role of GOAT in the regulation of energy homeostasis and glucose metabolism by modulating acyl ghrelin (AG) production. The relevance of GOAT and AG during periods of starvation remains to be defined. In addition, we summarized the recent literature on the metabolic effects of GOAT specific inhibitors and shared our view on the potential of targeting GOAT for the treatment of metabolic disorders such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Ghrelin, the endogenous ligand of the GH secretagogue receptor, has a pleiotropic role in the modulation of energy balance. Recent evidence has demonstrated that besides its orexigenic role, ghrelin regulates central and peripheral lipid metabolism through specific control of hypothalamic AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a critical metabolic gauge regulating both cellular and whole-body energy homeostasis. The new milestones of ghrelin’s actions on energy balance, with particular focus on its molecular interaction with hypothalamic AMPK and fatty acid metabolism. Understanding this new metabolic pathway can provide new therapeutic targets for the treatment of obesity and the metabolic syndrome
Current evidence demonstrates that the stomach-derived hormone ghrelin, a potent growth hormone (GH) secretagogue, promotes feeding through a mechanism involving the short-term activation of hypothalamic AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which in turn results in decreased hypothalamic levels of malonyl-CoA and increased carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1 (CPT1) activity. Despite this evidence, no data have been reported about the effect of chronic, central ghrelin administration on hypothalamic fatty acid metabolism. In the present study, we examined the differences in hypothalamic fatty acid metabolism in the presence and absence of GH, by using a model for the study of GH-deficiency, namely the spontaneous dwarf rat and the effect of long-term central ghrelin treatment and starvation on hypothalamic fatty acid metabolism in this animal model.
GH-deficiency induces reductions in both de novo lipogenesis and beta-oxidation pathways in the hypothalamus. Thus, dwarf rats display reductions in fatty acid synthase (FAS) mRNA expression both in the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus (VMH) and whole hypothalamus, as well as in FAS protein and activity. CPT1 activity was also reduced. In addition, in the present study, we show that chronic ghrelin treatment does not promote AMPK-induced changes in the overall fluxes of hypothalamic fatty acid metabolism in normal rats and that this effect is independent of GH status. By contrast, both chronic ghrelin and fasting decreased FAS mRNA expression in the VMH of normal rats but not dwarf rats, suggesting GH status dependency. Overall, these results suggest that ghrelin plays a dual time-dependent role in modulating hypothalamic lipid metabolism. Understanding the molecular mechanism underlying the interplay between GH and ghrelin on hypothalamic lipid metabolism will allow new strategies for the design and development of suitable drugs for the treatment of GH-deficiency, obesity and its comorbidities.
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