Ghrelin is an appetite-regulating peptide that is primarily secreted by endocrine cells in the stomach and is implicated in regulation of alcohol consumption and alcohol-reinforced behaviors. In the present study, adolescent Sprague-Dawley rats received intermittent ethanol (AIE) exposure by intragastric intubation (5 g/kg) or vapor inhalation, manipulations conducted between postnatal days (PD) 28-43. On the first and last day of AIE exposure, the level of intoxication was examined 1 h after ethanol gavage or upon removal from the vapor chamber. This was immediately followed by a blood draw for determination of the blood ethanol concentration (BEC) and plasma levels of acylated ghrelin (acyl-ghrelin; active). On PD29, plasma levels of acyl-ghrelin were significantly elevated in male (but not female) rats in response to acute ethanol exposure by both gastric gavage and vapor inhalation. Importantly, assessment of plasma acyl-ghrelin in response to repeated ethanol exposure revealed a complex interaction of both sex and method of AIE exposure. On PD43, vapor inhalation increased plasma acyl-ghrelin in both males and females compared to their air-control counterparts, whereas there was no change in plasma levels of acyl-ghrelin in either male or female rats in response to exposure by intragastric gavage. Assessment of plasma acyl-ghrelin following a 30-day ethanol-free period revealed AIE exposure did not produce a change in basal levels. In addition, an acute ethanol challenge in adult rats of 5 g/kg via gastric gavage had no effect on plasma ghrelin levels when assessed 1 h after initiation of exposure. Collectively, these observations suggest that acyl-ghrelin, a primary gut-brain signaling hormone, is elevated by ethanol during early adolescence independent of administration route, and in gender-dependent fashion.
Keywords: Adolescence; Alcohol; Ethanol vapor; Ghrelin; Intragastric ethanol; intermittent ethanol.
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