Ghrelin, a novel peptide purified from stomach, is the endogenous ligand for the growth hormone secretagogue receptor and has potent growth hormone-releasing activity. The Ser3 residue of ghrelin is modified by n-octanoic acid, a modification necessary for hormonal activity. We established two ghrelin-specific radioimmunoassays; one recognizes the octanoyl-modified portion and another the C-terminal portion of ghrelin. Using these radioimmunoassay systems, we found that two major molecular forms exist-ghrelin and des-n-octanoyl ghrelin. While ghrelin activates growth-hormone secretagogue (GHS) receptor-expressing cells, the nonmodified des-n-octanyl form of ghrelin, designated as des-acyl ghrelin, does not. In addition to these findings, our radioimmunoassay systems also revealed high concentrations of ghrelin in the stomach and small intestine.