The regulation of circulating ghrelin - with recent updates from cell-based assays

Endocr J. 2015;62(2):107-22. doi: 10.1507/endocrj.EJ14-0419. Epub 2014 Oct 2.


Ghrelin is a stomach-derived orexigenic hormone with a wide range of physiological functions. Elucidation of the regulation of the circulating ghrelin level would lead to a better understanding of appetite control in body energy homeostasis. Earlier studies revealed that circulating ghrelin levels are under the control of both acute and chronic energy status: at the acute scale, ghrelin levels are increased by fasting and decreased by feeding, whereas at the chronic scale, they are high in obese subjects and low in lean subjects. Subsequent studies revealed that nutrients, hormones, or neural activities can influence circulating ghrelin levels in vivo. Recently developed in vitro assay systems for ghrelin secretion can assess whether and how individual factors affect ghrelin secretion from cells. In this review, on the basis of numerous human, animal, and cell-based studies, we summarize current knowledge on the regulation of circulating ghrelin levels and enumerate the factors that influence ghrelin levels.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite Regulation
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Diet / adverse effects
  • Eating*
  • Endocrine Glands / blood supply
  • Endocrine Glands / innervation
  • Endocrine Glands / metabolism*
  • Energy Intake
  • Gastric Mucosa / blood supply
  • Gastric Mucosa / innervation
  • Gastric Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Ghrelin / blood
  • Ghrelin / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Neurosecretory Systems / physiology


  • GHRL protein, human
  • Ghrelin