• arcuate nucleus;
  • GABA transmission;
  • growth hormone-releasing hormone-enhanced green fluorescent protein neurons;
  • mouse


Ghrelin, a natural ligand of the growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHS-R), is synthesized in the stomach but may also be expressed in lesser quantity in the hypothalamus where the GHS-R is located on growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) neurons. Obestatin, a peptide derived from the same precursor as ghrelin, is able to antagonize the ghrelin-induced increase of growth hormone (GH) secretion in vivo but not from pituitary explants in vitro. Thus, the blockade of ghrelin-induced GH release by obestatin could be mediated at the hypothalamic level by the neuronal network that controls pituitary GH secretion. Ghrelin increased GHRH and decreased somatostatin (somatotropin-releasing inhibitory factor) release from hypothalamic explants, whereas obestatin only reduced the ghrelin-induced increase of GHRH release, thus indicating that the effect of ghrelin and obestatin is targeted to GHRH neurons. Patch-clamp recordings on mouse GHRH-enhanced green fluorescent protein neurons indicated that ghrelin and obestatin had no significant effects on glutamatergic synaptic transmission. Ghrelin decreased GABAergic synaptic transmission in 44% of the recorded neurons, an effect blocked in the presence of the GHS-R antagonist BIM28163, and stimulated the firing rate of 78% of GHRH neurons. Obestatin blocked the effects of ghrelin by acting on a receptor different from the GHS-R. These data suggest that: (i) ghrelin increases GHRH neuron excitability by increasing their action potential firing rate and decreasing the strength of GABA inhibitory inputs, thereby leading to an enhanced GHRH release; and (ii) obestatin counteracts ghrelin actions. Such interactions on GHRH neurons probably participate in the control of GH secretion.