Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone Reduces Circulating Markers of Immune Activation in Parallel with Effects on Hepatic Immune Pathways in Individuals with HIV-infection and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Clin Infect Dis. 2021 Aug 16;73(4):621-630. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciab019.


Background: The growth hormone (GH)/insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) axis modulates critical metabolic pathways; however, little is known regarding effects of augmenting pulsatile GH secretion on immune function in humans. This study used proteomics and gene set enrichment analysis to assess effects of a GH releasing hormone (GHRH) analog, tesamorelin, on circulating immune markers and liver tissue in people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) (PWH) and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Methods: 92 biomarkers associated with immunity, chemotaxis, and metabolism were measured in plasma samples from 61 PWH with NAFLD who participated in a double-blind, randomized trial of tesamorelin versus placebo for 12 months. Gene set enrichment analysis was performed on serial liver biopsies targeted to immune pathways.

Results: Tesamorelin, compared to placebo, decreased interconnected proteins related to cytotoxic T-cell and monocyte activation. Circulating concentrations of 13 proteins were significantly decreased, and no proteins increased, by tesamorelin. These included 4 chemokines (CCL3, CCL4, CCL13 [MCP4], IL8 [CXCL8]), 2 cytokines (IL-10 and CSF-1), and 4 T-cell associated molecules (CD8A, CRTAM, GZMA, ADGRG1), as well as ARG1, Gal-9, and HGF. Network analysis indicated close interaction among the gene pathways responsible for these proteins, with imputational analyses suggesting down-regulation of a closely related cluster of immune pathways. Targeted transcriptomics using liver tissue confirmed a significant end-organ signal of down-regulated immune activation pathways.

Conclusions: Long-term treatment with a GHRH analog reduced markers of T-cell and monocyte/macrophage activity, suggesting that augmentation of the GH axis may ameliorate immune activation in an HIV population with metabolic dysregulation, systemic and end organ inflammation. Clinical Trials Registration. NCT02196831.

Keywords: HIV-infection; growth hormone; growth hormone releasing hormone; immune activation; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone
  • HIV Infections* / complications
  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / drug therapy


  • Biomarkers
  • Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone

Associated data