The extra-hypothalamic actions of ghrelin on neuronal function

Trends Neurosci. 2011 Jan;34(1):31-40. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2010.10.001. Epub 2010 Oct 28.


Ghrelin is a peptide hormone produced and secreted in the stomach. Numerous studies over the past decade demonstrate its importance in food intake, body-weight regulation and glucose homeostasis. These effects are driven largely by the high expression of the ghrelin receptor (GHSR1a) in the hypothalamus. However, GHSR1a is also expressed in numerous extra-hypothalamic neuronal populations, suggesting that ghrelin has physiological functions besides those involved in metabolic functions. In this review, I focus on increasing evidence that ghrelin has important roles in extra-hypothalamic functions, including learning and memory, reward and motivation, anxiety and depression, and neuroprotection. Furthermore, I discuss how the recently demonstrated role of ghrelin in promoting survival during periods of caloric restriction could contribute to its inherent neuroprotective and neuromodulatory properties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Caloric Restriction
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Ghrelin / genetics
  • Ghrelin / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Learning / physiology
  • Limbic System / cytology
  • Limbic System / physiology
  • Memory / physiology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / metabolism
  • Receptors, Ghrelin / metabolism
  • Reward


  • Ghrelin
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Receptors, Ghrelin
  • Dopamine