Ghrelin, a peptide hormone predominantly produced by the stomach, was isolated as the endogenous ligand for the growth hormone secretagogue receptor. Ghrelin is a potent stimulator of growth hormone (GH) secretion and is the only circulatory hormone known to potently enhance feeding and weight gain and to regulate energy homeostasis following central and systemic administration. Therapeutic intervention with ghrelin in catabolic situations may induce a combination of enhanced food intake, increased gastric emptying and nutrient storage, coupled with an increase in GH thereby linking nutrient partitioning with growth and repair processes. These qualities have fostered the idea that ghrelin-based compounds may have therapeutic utility in treating malnutrition and wasting induced by various sub-acute and chronic disorders. Conversely, compounds that inhibit ghrelin action may be useful for the prevention or treatment of metabolic syndrome components such as obesity, impaired lipid metabolism or insulin resistance. In recent years, the effects of ghrelin on glucose homeostasis, memory function and gastrointestinal motility have attracted considerable amount of attention and revealed novel therapeutic targets in treating a wide range of pathologic conditions. Furthermore, discovery of ghrelin O-acyltransferase has also opened new research opportunities that could lead to major understanding of ghrelin physiology. This review summarizes the current knowledge on ghrelin synthesis, secretion, mechanism of action and biological functions with an additional focus on potential for ghrelin-based pharmacotherapies.
2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.