Pathophysiology of the neuroregulation of growth hormone secretion in experimental animals and the human

Endocr Rev. 1998 Dec;19(6):717-97. doi: 10.1210/edrv.19.6.0353.


During the last decade, the GH axis has become the compelling focus of remarkably active and broad-ranging basic and clinical research. Molecular and genetic models, the discovery of human GHRH and its receptor, the cloning of the GHRP receptor, and the clinical availability of recombinant GH and IGF-I have allowed surprisingly rapid advances in our knowledge of the neuroregulation of the GH-IGF-I axis in many pathophysiological contexts. The complexity of the GHRH/somatostatin-GH-IGF-I axis thus commends itself to more formalized modeling (154, 155), since the multivalent feedback-control activities are difficult to assimilate fully on an intuitive scale. Understanding the dynamic neuroendocrine mechanisms that direct the pulsatile secretion of this fundamental growth-promoting and metabolic hormone remains a critical goal, the realization of which is challenged by the exponentially accumulating matrix of experimental and clinical data in this arena. To the above end, we review here the pathophysiology of the GHRH somatostatin-GH-IGF-I feedback axis consisting of corresponding key neurotransmitters, neuromodulators, and metabolic effectors, and their cloned receptors and signaling pathways. We propose that this system is best viewed as a multivalent feedback network that is exquisitely sensitive to an array of neuroregulators and environmental stressors and genetic restraints. Feedback and feedforward mechanisms acting within the intact somatotropic axis mediate homeostatic control throughout the human lifetime and are disrupted in disease. Novel effectors of the GH axis, such as GHRPs, also offer promise as investigative probes and possible therapeutic agents. Further understanding of the mechanisms of GH neuroregulation will likely allow development of progressively more specific molecular and clinical tools for the diagnosis and treatment of various conditions in which GH secretion is regulated abnormally. Thus, we predict that unexpected and enriching insights in the domain of the neuroendocrine pathophysiology of the GH axis are likely be achieved in the succeeding decades of basic and clinical research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Growth Hormone / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamic Diseases / physiopathology
  • Pituitary Diseases / physiopathology
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / physiology*


  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter
  • Growth Hormone