Molecular cloning and analysis of the ghrelin/GHSR system in Xenopus tropicalis

Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2023 Jan 15:331:114167. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2022.114167. Epub 2022 Nov 17.


Ghrelin is a gut-derived peptide with several physiological functions, including feeding, gastrointestinal motility, and hormonal secretion. Recently, a host defense peptide, liver-expressed antimicrobial peptide-2 (LEAP2), was reported as an endogenous antagonist of growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHS-R). The physiological relevance of the molecular LEAP2-GHS-R interaction in mammals has been explored; however, studies on non-mammals are limited. Here, we report the identification and functional characterization of ghrelin and its related molecules in Western clawed frog (Xenopus tropicalis), a known model organism. We first identified cDNA encoding X. tropicalis ghrelin and GHS-R. RT-qPCR revealed that ghrelin mRNA expression was most abundant in the stomach. GHS-R mRNA was widely distributed in the brain and peripheral tissues, and a relatively strong signal was observed in the stomach and intestine. In addition, LEAP2 was mainly expressed in intestinal tissues at higher levels than in the liver. In functional analysis, X. tropicalis ghrelin and human ghrelin induced intracellular Ca2+ mobilization with EC50 values in the low nanomolar range in CHO-K1 cells expressing X. tropicalis GHS-R. Furthermore, ghrelin-induced GHS-R activation was antagonized with IC50 values in the nanomolar range by heterologous human LEAP2. We also validated the expression of ghrelin and feeding-related factors under fasting conditions. After 2 days of fasting, no changes in ghrelin mRNA levels were observed in the stomach, but GHS-R mRNA levels were significantly increased, associated with significant downregulation of nucb2. In addition, LEAP2 upregulation was observed in the duodenum. These results provide the first evidence that LEAP2 functions as an antagonist of GHS-R in the anuran amphibian X. tropicalis. It has also been suggested that the ghrelin/GHS-R/LEAP2 system may be involved in energy homeostasis in X. tropicalis.

Keywords: GHSR; Ghrelin; Leap2; Xenopus tropicalis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Ghrelin* / genetics
  • Ghrelin* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Ghrelin* / metabolism
  • Xenopus / metabolism


  • Ghrelin
  • Receptors, Ghrelin
  • RNA, Messenger