Contents: Ghrelin is implicated in meal initiation because circulating levels increase before and fall after meal consumption. In rodents, ghrelin stimulates food intake via hypothalamic circuits expressing the melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R).
Objective: The aim of the study was to investigate the impact of central melanocortinergic tone on ghrelin secretion in humans. DESIGN/SETTING/PATIENTS/MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: We measured plasma total ghrelin before and after 3 standardized meals in patients with MC4R mutations and obese and lean controls. Fasting total ghrelin, area under the curve, and early (30-min) and intermeal postprandial total ghrelin suppression (the percentage difference between the premeal and the 30-min postprandial or intermeal nadir total ghrelin concentration) were calculated.
Results: Fasting total ghrelin concentrations and area under the curve for total ghrelin concentrations were significantly decreased in both obese groups compared to lean controls (fasting total ghrelin: lean controls, 1083 ± 203 pg/ml; and obese controls, 696 ± 81 pg/ml; MC4R: 609 ± 99 pg/ml, P < .05). Early and intermeal postprandial total ghrelin suppression was attenuated in MC4R-deficient patients compared to lean controls (P < .05); a similar pattern was observed for early postprandial suppression in comparison with obese controls, but this difference did not reach statistical significance (P = .09).
Conclusions: These findings are consistent with a role for central melanocortinergic signaling in modulating meal-related total ghrelin suppression.