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Ghrelin-induced hypothermia: A physiological basis but no clinical risk

Wiedmer, Petra, Strasser, Florian, Horvath, Tamas L., Blum, David, DiMarchi, Richard, Lutz, Thomas, Schürmann, Annette, Joost, Hans-Georg, Tschöp, Matthias H., Tong, Jenny
Physiology & behavior 2011 v.105 no.1 pp. 43-51
cold stress, energy expenditure, food intake, ghrelin, ghrelin receptors, humans, hypothermia, intravenous injection, mice, neurons, preoptic area, rats, risk, surface temperature, thermoregulation
Ghrelin increases food intake and decreases energy expenditure, promoting a positive energy balance. We observed a single case of serious hypothermia during sustained ghrelin treatment in a male subject, suggesting that ghrelin may play a role in the regulation of body temperature. We therefore investigated the effect of ghrelin treatment on body temperature in rodents and humans under controlled conditions. Intriguingly, we could demonstrate ghrelin binding in axon terminals of the medial preoptic area of the hypothalamus located in the vicinity of cold-sensitive neurons. This localization of ghrelin receptors provides a potential anatomical basis for the regulation of body temperature by ghrelin. However, our follow-up studies also indicated that neither a chronic i.c.v. application of ghrelin in rats, nor a single s.c. injection under cold exposure in mice resulted in a relevant decrease in body core temperature. In addition, a four-hour intravenous ghrelin infusion did not decrease body surface temperature in healthy humans. We concluded that while there is a theoretical molecular basis for ghrelin to modify body temperature in mammals, its magnitude is irrelevant under physiologic circumstances. Hypothermia is not likely to represent a serious risk associated with this agent and pathway.