Aging is associated with increased adiposity in white adipose tissues and impaired thermogenesis in brown adipose tissues; both contribute to increased incidences of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Ghrelin is the only known circulating orexigenic hormone that promotes adiposity. In this study, we show that ablation of the ghrelin receptor (growth hormone secretagogue receptor, GHS-R) improves insulin sensitivity during aging. Compared to wild-type (WT) mice, old Ghsr(-/-) mice have reduced fat and preserve a healthier lipid profile. Old Ghsr(-/-) mice also exhibit elevated energy expenditure and resting metabolic rate, yet have similar food intake and locomotor activity. While GHS-R expression in white and brown adipose tissues was below the detectable level in the young mice, GHS-R expression was readily detectable in visceral white fat and interscapular brown fat of the old mice. Gene expression profiles reveal that Ghsr ablation reduced glucose/lipid uptake and lipogenesis in white adipose tissues but increased thermogenic capacity in brown adipose tissues. Ghsr ablation prevents age-associated decline in thermogenic gene expression of uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1). Cell culture studies in brown adipocytes further demonstrate that ghrelin suppresses the expression of adipogenic and thermogenic genes, while GHS-R antagonist abolishes ghrelin's effects and increases UCP1 expression. Hence, GHS-R plays an important role in thermogenic impairment during aging. Ghsr ablation improves aging-associated obesity and insulin resistance by reducing adiposity and increasing thermogenesis. Growth hormone secretagogue receptor antagonists may be a new means of combating obesity by shifting the energy balance from obesogenesis to thermogenesis.
© 2011 The Authors. Aging Cell © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland.