Ghrelin is an acylated peptide stimulating secretion of the growth hormone (GH). It was originally isolated from the rat stomach as an endogenous ligand for the growth hormone secretagogue receptor. Although being predominantly produced by endocrine cells of the gastric fundus, its secretion has been found in various tissues including the kidney. To study the influence of renal failure on plasma ghrelin levels we examined 16 patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) receiving hemodialysis (8 men and 8 women) and 19 controls (10 men and 9 women). Both groups were comparable in age and BMI. In all subjects we assessed plasma levels of ghrelin, leptin, soluble leptin receptor, insulin, IGF-I, IGFBP-1, IGFBP-3 and IGFBP-6. Ghrelin levels were significantly higher in the group of dialyzed patients (4.49+/-0.74 vs. 1.79+/-0.15 ng/ml; p<0.001). These patients had significantly higher levels of GH, IGFBP-1, IGFBP-6, leptin and percentage of body fat (p<0.05). In the group of patients with ESRD plasma ghrelin levels positively correlated with IGFBP-1 (p<0.01). In the control group, ghrelin positively correlated with GH concentrations (p<0.01) and negatively correlated with the levels of insulin and creatinine (p<0.05). In conclusion, patients with ESRD have higher ghrelin concentrations, which might be caused by a decreased excretion/metabolism of ghrelin in the kidney during renal failure.