Ghrelin is an endogenous growth hormone (GH) secretagogue recently isolated from the stomach. Although it possesses a strong GH releasing activity in vitro and in vivo, its physiological significance in endogenous GH secretion remains unclear. The aim of this study was to characterize plasma ghrelin levels in acromegaly and growth hormone deficiency (GHD). We investigated plasma total and active ghrelin in 21 patients with acromegaly, 9 patients with GHD and 24 age-, sex- and BMI-matched controls. In all subjects, we further assessed the concentrations of leptin, soluble leptin receptor, insulin, IGF-I, free IGF-I and IGFBP-1, 2, 3 and 6. Patients with acromegaly and GHD as well as control subjects showed similar levels of total ghrelin (controls 2.004+/-0.18 ng/ml, acromegalics 1.755+/-0.16 ng/ml, p=0.31, GHD patients 1.704+/-0.17 ng/ml, p=0.35) and active ghrelin (controls 0.057+/-0.01 ng/ml, acromegalics 0.047+/-0.01 ng/ml, p=0.29, GHD patients 0.062+/-0.01 ng/ml, p=0.73). In acromegalic patients plasma total ghrelin values correlated negatively with IGF-I (p<0.05), in GHD patients active ghrelin correlated with IGF-I positively (p<0.05). In the control group, total ghrelin correlated positively with IGFBP-2 (p<0.05) and negatively with active ghrelin (p=0.05), BMI (p<0.05), WHR (p<0.05), insulin (p=0.01) and IGF-I (p=0.05). Plasma active ghrelin correlated positively with IGFBP-3 (p=0.005) but negatively with total ghrelin and free IGF-I (p=0.01). In conclusion, all groups of the tested subjects showed similar plasma levels of total and active ghrelin. In acromegaly and growth hormone deficiency plasma ghrelin does not seem to be significantly affected by changes in GH secretion.