A role for ghrelin in the central regulation of feeding

Nature. 2001 Jan 11;409(6817):194-8. doi: 10.1038/35051587.


Ghrelin is an acylated peptide that stimulates the release of growth hormone from the pituitary. Ghrelin-producing neurons are located in the hypothalamus, whereas ghrelin receptors are expressed in various regions of the brain, which is indicative of central-and as yet undefined-physiological functions. Here we show that ghrelin is involved in the hypothalamic regulation of energy homeostasis. Intracerebroventricular injections of ghrelin strongly stimulated feeding in rats and increased body weight gain. Ghrelin also increased feeding in rats that are genetically deficient in growth hormone. Anti-ghrelin immunoglobulin G robustly suppressed feeding. After intracerebroventricular ghrelin administration, Fos protein, a marker of neuronal activation, was found in regions of primary importance in the regulation of feeding, including neuropeptide Y6 (NPY) neurons and agouti-related protein (AGRP) neurons. Antibodies and antagonists of NPY and AGRP abolished ghrelin-induced feeding. Ghrelin augmented NPY gene expression and blocked leptin-induced feeding reduction, implying that there is a competitive interaction between ghrelin and leptin in feeding regulation. We conclude that ghrelin is a physiological mediator of feeding, and probably has a function in growth regulation by stimulating feeding and release of growth hormone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / physiology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Gene Expression
  • Genes, fos
  • Ghrelin
  • Growth Hormone / physiology
  • Homeostasis
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Injections, Intraventricular
  • Leptin / physiology
  • Male
  • Neuropeptide Y / physiology
  • Peptide Hormones*
  • Peptides / immunology
  • Peptides / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Satiation
  • Weight Gain


  • Ghrelin
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Leptin
  • Neuropeptide Y
  • Peptide Hormones
  • Peptides
  • Growth Hormone