Ghrelin, a recently described endogenous ligand for the growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHS-R), is produced by stomach cells and is a potent circulating orexigen, controlling energy expenditure, adiposity, and growth hormone secretion. However, the functional role of ghrelin in regulation of immune responses remains undefined. Here we report that GHS-R and ghrelin are expressed in human T lymphocytes and monocytes, where ghrelin acts via GHS-R to specifically inhibit the expression of proinflammatory anorectic cytokines such as IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF-α. Ghrelin led to a dose-dependent inhibition of leptin-induced cytokine expression, while leptin upregulated GHS-R expression on human T lymphocytes. These data suggest the existence of a reciprocal regulatory network by which ghrelin and leptin control immune cell activation and inflammation. Moreover, ghrelin also exerts potent anti-inflammatory effects and attenuates endotoxin-induced anorexia in a murine endotoxemia model. We believe this to be the first report demonstrating that ghrelin functions as a key signal, coupling the metabolic axis to the immune system, and supporting the potential use of ghrelin and GHS-R agonists in the management of disease-associated cachexia.
Vishwa Deep Dixit, Eric M. Schaffer, Robert S. Pyle, Gary D. Collins, Senthil K. Sakthivel, Ravichandran Palaniappan, James W. Lillard Jr., Dennis D. Taub