Ghrelin is brain-gut peptide with growth hormone-releasing and appetite-inducing activities. It is mainly secreted from the stomach mucosa but it is also expressed widely in different tissues and therefore may have both endocrine and paracrine effects. Ghrelin is the endogenous ligand of the G protein-coupled growth hormone secretagogue receptor. In the current review we comprehensively summarize (i) the data available regarding the structure, expression pattern and regulation of ghrelin and its receptor; (ii) the available information regarding the effect of ghrelin on the pituitary hormone axis, appetite regulation, cardiac and gastrointestinal function, carbohydrate metabolism, adipose and reproductive tissue, cell proliferation and behavioral effects; (iii) experimental and clinical data regarding circulating ghrelin levels observed in various physiological and pathological conditions; and (iv) data on gene variations of ghrelin and its receptor. It is apparent that ghrelin is involved in many more processes than originally envisaged, and in particular appears to have relatively less relevance to growth hormone physiology and more to the regulation of energy fluxes in the organism. Increasing data link ghrelin to the overall control of energy use and flow in situations where there is a limitation of energy sources and ghrelin appears to play a pivotal role in energy homeostasis.
Copyright 2004 Elsevier Inc.