Regulation of ghrelin secretion during pregnancy and lactation in the rat: possible involvement of hypothalamus

Peptides. 2004 Feb;25(2):279-87. doi: 10.1016/j.peptides.2004.01.011.


We investigated the plasma concentration of ghrelin peptide during pregnancy and lactation in rats. Plasma ghrelin levels on days 10 and 15 of pregnancy were significantly lower than those of the non-pregnant rats. Thereafter, the plasma ghrelin levels on day 20 of pregnancy sharply increased to levels comparable with those in non-pregnant rats. Ghrelin peptide concentrations in the stomach did not change significantly during pregnancy. In the hypothalamus, ghrelin mRNA levels were significantly lower on day 15 of pregnancy than in the non-pregnant rats. Also, plasma ghrelin levels were significantly lower in lactating dams than non-lactating controls on days 3 and 8 of lactation. We examined the possible involvement of prolactin and oxytocin in the regulation of plasma ghrelin concentrations during lactation. Although plasma prolactin levels were decreased by the administration of bromocriptine, plasma ghrelin levels did not differ significantly between vehicle- and drug-treated lactating rats. Administration of haloperidol produced a marked increase in plasma prolactin levels as compared with the non-lactating controls. However, plasma ghrelin levels were not significantly different between vehicle- and drug-treated rats. Administration of an oxytocin antagonist into the lateral ventricle significantly inhibited the increase in the plasma oxytocin level induced by acute suckling. However, plasma ghrelin levels did not significantly between the groups. These observations indicated that the decrease in serum ghrelin is caused by a loss of the contribution of hypothalamic ghrelin. Furthermore, the present results suggested that the suckling stimulus itself, but the release of prolactin or oxytocin, is the factor most likely to be responsible for the suppression of ghrelin secretion during lactation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bromocriptine / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Gastric Mucosa / metabolism
  • Ghrelin
  • Haloperidol / pharmacology
  • Hypothalamus / drug effects
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Lactation / metabolism*
  • Oxytocin / blood*
  • Peptide Hormones / blood*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Animal / metabolism*
  • Prolactin / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Ghrelin
  • Peptide Hormones
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Bromocriptine
  • Oxytocin
  • Prolactin
  • Haloperidol