We examined the possible central and peripheral effects of synthetic growth hormone secretagogues (GHS), hexarelin (Hexa) and EP 40737 (D-Thr-D-Trp (2-Me)-Ala- Trp-D-Phe-Lys-NH2), and of their endogenous counterpart, ghrelin, on gastric acid secretion. The compounds were administered intracerebroventricularly (i.c.v.) or subcutaneously (s.c.) in conscious male rats and the volume of gastric secretion and gastric acid output were examined 3 h after pylorus ligation (Shay-test). Central Hexa, EP 40737 and ghrelin administration (from 0.1 pmol to 1 nmol/rat, i.c.v.) significantly inhibited gastric acid secretion. The maximum inhibitory effect on gastric acid output was detected at the dose of 10 pmol/rat, i.c.v. for Hexa (–51.3%), of 100 pmol/rat, i.c.v. for EP 40737 (–70%) and of 1 pmol/rat, i.c.v. for ghrelin (–60%). All peptides were less effective at the highest dose used (1 nmol/rat, i.c.v.). Hexa, EP 40737 and ghrelin injected s.c. did not modify gastric acid secretion. The inhibitory action of Hexa on gastric acid secretion seems to involve brain somatostatinergic system since Hexa (10 pmol/rat, i.c.v.) did not inhibit gastric acid secretion in rats pretreated (4 h before) with cysteamine (300 mg/kg, s.c.), a depletor of endogenous somatostatin. These results show that synthetic GHS and ghrelin exert a central long-lasting inhibitory effect on gastric acid secretion in conscious pylorus-ligated rats. The fact that very low doses of ghrelin and GHS inhibit gastric secretion, provide evidence for a tonic inhibitory role of the peptides in the central control of gastric secretory function.

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