Ghrelin inhibits sympathetic nervous activity in sepsis

Rongqian Wu, Mian Zhou, Padmalaya Das, Weifeng Dong, Youxin Ji, Derek Yang, Michael Miksa, Fangming Zhang, Thanjavur S. Ravikumar, Ping Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Our previous studies have shown that norepinephrine (NE) upregulates proinflammatory cytokines by activating α2-adrenoceptor. Therefore, modulation of the sympathetic nervous system represents a novel treatment for sepsis. We have also shown that a novel stomach-derived peptide, ghrelin, is downregulated in sepsis and that its intravenous administration decreases proinflammatory cytokines and mitigates organ injury. However, it remains unknown whether ghrelin inhibits sympathetic activity through central ghrelin receptors [i.e., growth hormone secretagogue receptor 1a (GHSR-la)] in sepsis. To study this, sepsis was induced in male rats by cecal ligation and puncture (CLP). Ghrelin was administered through intravenous or intracerebroventricular injection 30 min before CLP. Our results showed that intravenous administration of ghrelin significantly reduced the elevated NE and TNF-α levels at 2 h after CLP. NE administration partially blocked the inhibitory effect of ghrelin on TNF-α in sepsis. GHSR-la inhibition by the administration of a GHSR-la antagonist, [D-Arg1,D-Phe 5,D-Trp7,9,Leu11]substance P, significantly increased both NE and TNF-α levels even in normal animals. Markedly elevated circulating levels of NE 2 h after CLP were also significantly decreased by intracerebroventricular administration of ghrelin. Ghrelin's inhibitory effect on NE release was completely blocked by intracerebroventricular injection of the GHSR-1a antagonist or a neuropeptide Y (NPY)/Y1 receptor antagonist. However, ghrelin's downregulatory effect on TNF-α release was only partially diminished by these agents. Thus ghrelin has sympathoinhibitory properties that are mediated by central ghrelin receptors involving a NPY/Y1 receptor-dependent pathway. Ghrelin's inhibitory effect on TNF-α production in sepsis is partially because of its modulation of the overstimulated sympathetic nerve activation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1697-E1702
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Cytokines
  • Ghrelin
  • Norepinephrine
  • Sepsis
  • Sympathetic nervous system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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