Ghrelin, the recently identified endogenous ligand of the GH secretagogue receptor, is a gut-brain peptide with endocrine, orexigenic, and gastrointestinal effects. In rodents it increases circulating gastrin and insulin levels, whereas in man it appears to decrease insulin secretion despite a rise in blood glucose levels. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effects of ghrelin administration on total circulating somatostatin (SS), pancreatic polypeptide (PP), and gastrin levels compared with those elicited on insulin, glucose, and GH. Eight healthy volunteers of normal weight (four women and four men) were injected with 3.3 microg/kg ghrelin or saline after an overnight fast on 2 different days. Blood was taken every 15 min for 1 h and then every 30 min for 2 h. As expected, ghrelin injection elicited a prompt GH and glucose increase with a peak at 30 min and an insulin decrease with a nadir at 60 min. Gastrin concentrations were not modified, whereas significant rises were observed in both SS (in a biphasic pattern with peaks at 15 and 120 min) and PP (which increased promptly with a peak at 15 min). A significant negative correlation was found between SS (first peak) and insulin changes (r = -0.86; P < 0.01). In conclusion, this study clearly demonstrates that ghrelin stimulates SS and PP release in man. Although the underlying mechanisms and biological significance of these pharmacological effects remain to be elucidated, a causal relationship between the SS increase and the insulin changes may be hypothesized. Finally, these findings strongly support ghrelin's postulated role in linking the endocrine control of energy balance and growth with the regulation of gastrointestinal functions.