Ghrelin receptor activity amplifies hippocampal N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor-mediated postsynaptic currents and increases phosphorylation of the GluN1 subunit at Ser896 and Ser897

Eur J Neurosci. 2015 Dec;42(12):3045-53. doi: 10.1111/ejn.13107. Epub 2015 Nov 17.


Although ghrelin and its cognate receptor growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHSR1a) are highly localized in the hypothalamic nuclei for the regulation of metabolic states and feeding, GHSR1a is also highly localized in the hippocampus, suggesting its involvement in extra-hypothalamic functions. Indeed, exogenous application of ghrelin has been reported to improve hippocampal learning and memory. However, the underlying mechanism of ghrelin regulation of hippocampal functions is poorly understood. Here, we report ghrelin-promoted phosphorylation of GluN1 and amplified N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR)-mediated excitatory postsynaptic currents in the CA1 pyramidal cells of the hippocampus in slice preparations. The ghrelin-induced responses were sensitive to a GHSR1a antagonist and inverse agonist, and were absent in GHSR1a homozygous knock-out mice. These results indicated that activation of GHSR1a was critical in the ghrelin-induced enhancement of the NMDAR function. Interestingly, heterozygous mouse hippocampi were also insensitive to ghrelin treatment, suggesting that a slight reduction in the availability of GHSR1a may be sufficient to negate the effect of ghrelin on GluN1 phosphorylation and NMDAR channel activities. In addition, NMDAR-mediated spike currents, which are of dendritic origin, were blocked by the GHSR1a antagonist, suggesting the presence of GHSR1a on the pyramidal cell dendrites in physical proximity to NMDAR. Together with our findings on the localization of GHSR1a in the CA1 region of the hippocampus, which was shown by fluorescent ghrelin binding, immunoreactivity, and enhanced green fluorescent protein reporter gene expression, we conclude that the activation of GHSR1a favours rapid modulation of the NMDAR-mediated glutamatergic synaptic transmission by phosphorylating GluN1 in the hippocampus.

Keywords: GHSR KO mouse; NMDA spikes; ghrelin binding; immunohistochemistry; rat; whole cell patch clamp recording.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System Agents / administration & dosage
  • Dendrites / drug effects
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / drug effects
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Ghrelin / administration & dosage
  • Ghrelin / metabolism
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Phosphorylation / physiology
  • Pyramidal Cells / drug effects
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Ghrelin / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Ghrelin / genetics
  • Receptors, Ghrelin / metabolism*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / genetics
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism*
  • Tissue Culture Techniques


  • Central Nervous System Agents
  • Ghrelin
  • Ghsr1a protein, mouse
  • Ghsr1a protein, rat
  • Gprin1 protein, mouse
  • NMDA receptor A1
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Receptors, Ghrelin
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • enhanced green fluorescent protein
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins