Ghrelin administration into tegmental areas stimulates locomotor activity and increases extracellular concentration of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens

Addict Biol. 2007 Mar;12(1):6-16. doi: 10.1111/j.1369-1600.2006.00041.x.


Ghrelin stimulates appetite, increases food intake and causes adiposity by mechanisms that include direct actions on the brain. Previously, we showed that intracerebroventricular administration of ghrelin has stimulatory and dopamine-enhancing properties. These effects of ghrelin are mediated via central nicotine receptors, suggesting that ghrelin can activate the acetylcholine-dopamine reward link. This reward link consists of cholinergic input from the laterodorsal tegmental area (LDTg) to the mesolimbic dopamine system that originates in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and projects to the nucleus accumbens. Given that growth hormone secretagogue receptors (GHSR-1A) are expressed in the VTA and LDTg, brain areas involved in reward, the present series of experiments were undertaken to examine the hypothesis that these regions may mediate the stimulatory and dopamine-enhancing effects of ghrelin, by means of locomotor activity and in vivo microdialysis in freely moving mice. We found that local administration of ghrelin into the VTA (1 microg in 1 microl) induced an increase in locomotor activity and in the extracellular concentration of accumbal dopamine. In addition, local administration of ghrelin into the LDTg (1 microg in 1 microl) caused a locomotor stimulation and an increase in the extracellular levels of accumbal dopamine. Taken together, this indicates that ghrelin might, via activation of GHSR-1A in the VTA and LDTg, stimulate the acetylcholine-dopamine reward link, implicating that ghrelin is a part of the neurochemical overlap between the reward systems and those that regulate energy balance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Fluid / drug effects
  • Ghrelin
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Microdialysis
  • Motor Activity / drug effects*
  • Neural Pathways / drug effects
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects*
  • Peptide Hormones / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / drug effects
  • Receptors, Ghrelin
  • Reward
  • Tegmentum Mesencephali / drug effects*
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / drug effects*


  • Ghrelin
  • Peptide Hormones
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Receptors, Ghrelin
  • Acetylcholine
  • Dopamine