Ghrelin, an endogenous ligand of the growth hormone secretagogue receptor, was recently identified in the rat stomach. Previous studies have shown that ghrelin potently increases growth hormone release and food intake. We examined the effects of the gastric peptide ghrelin on anxiety-like behavior in association with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in mice. Both intra-third cerebroventricular and intraperitoneal administration of ghrelin potently and significantly induced anxiogenic activities in the elevated plus maze test. Ghrelin gene expression in the stomach was increased by tail pinch stress as well as by starvation stress. Administration of a corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) receptor antagonist significantly inhibited ghrelin-induced anxiogenic effects. Peripherally administered ghrelin significantly increased CRH mRNA, but not urocortin mRNA expression in the hypothalamus. Furthermore, intraperitoneal injection of ghrelin produced a significant dose- dependent increase in serum corticosterone levels. These findings suggest that ghrelin may have a role in mediating neuroendocrine and behavioral responses to stressors and that the stomach could play an important role, not only in the regulation of appetite, but also in the regulation of anxiety.

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