The ghrelin receptor agonist HM01 mimics the neuronal effects of ghrelin in the arcuate nucleus and attenuates anorexia-cachexia syndrome in tumor-bearing rats

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2016 Jul 1;311(1):R89-96. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00044.2016. Epub 2016 May 4.


The gastric hormone ghrelin positively affects energy balance by increasing food intake and reducing energy expenditure. Ghrelin mimetics are a possible treatment against cancer anorexia-cachexia syndrome (CACS). This study aimed to characterize the action of the nonpeptidergic ghrelin receptor agonist HM01 on neuronal function, energy homeostasis and muscle mass in healthy rats and to evaluate its possible usefulness for the treatment of CACS in a rat tumor model. Using extracellular single-unit recordings, we tested whether HM01 mimics the effects of ghrelin on neuronal activity in the arcuate nucleus (Arc). Furthermore, we assessed the effect of chronic HM01 treatment on food intake (FI), body weight (BW), lean and fat volumes, and muscle mass in healthy rats. Using a hepatoma model, we investigated the possible beneficial effects of HM01 on tumor-induced anorexia, BW loss, muscle wasting, and metabolic rate. HM01 (10(-7)-10(-6) M) mimicked the effect of ghrelin (10(-8) M) by increasing the firing rate in 76% of Arc neurons. HM01 delivered chronically for 12 days via osmotic minipumps (50 μg/h) increased FI in healthy rats by 24%, paralleled by increased BW, higher fat and lean volumes, and higher muscle mass. Tumor-bearing rats treated with HM01 had 30% higher FI than tumor-bearing controls and were protected against BW loss. HM01 treatment resulted in higher muscle mass and fat mass. Moreover, tumor-bearing rats reduced their metabolic rate following HM01 treatment. Our studies substantiate the possible therapeutic usefulness of ghrelin receptor agonists like HM01 for the treatment of CACS and possibly other forms of disease-related anorexia and cachexia.

Keywords: cancer; food intake; hypothalamus; malnutrition; metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Animals
  • Anorexia / drug therapy*
  • Anorexia / etiology*
  • Anorexia / pathology
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / drug effects*
  • Body Weight
  • Cachexia / drug therapy*
  • Cachexia / etiology*
  • Cachexia / pathology
  • Eating
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Ghrelin / pharmacology*
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / complications*
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Ghrelin / agonists*


  • Ghrelin
  • Receptors, Ghrelin