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  • Author: V De Gennaro Colonna x
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V De Gennaro-Colonna, G Rossoni, D Cocchi, AE Rigamonti, F Berti and EE Muller

Genetically obese male Zucker rats have an impaired secretion of GH, coupled to hyperinsulinemia, hyperlipidemia and glucose intolerance. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether a chronic treatment with hexarelin, a synthetic enkephalin-derived hexapeptide with a potent GH-releasing activity, might be able to ameliorate the somatotropic function and reverse some metabolic alterations associated with obesity in male obese Zucker rats. Furthermore, as decreased GH secretion and insulin resistance are associated with increased cardiovascular risk, we also tested the capacity of hexarelin to prevent postischemic ventricular dysfunction in hearts of male obese Zucker rats. Obese and lean male rats of the Zucker strain were treated with hexarelin (80 microgram/kg, b.i.d., s.c.) or saline (1 ml/kg, b.i.d., s.c.) for 30 days. An acute hexarelin injection (80 microgram, s.c.) at the 28th day of treatment elicited a rise in plasma GH levels in ! lean but not in obese rats (pretreated or not with hexarelin); lean rats chronically treated with hexarelin showed a greater increase in plasma GH as compared with control counterparts. At the end of the experiment, pituitary GH mRNA levels were significantly reduced in obese rats and hexarelin administration failed to increase pituitary GH mRNA and IGF-I concentrations in plasma and heart. Chronic treatment with hexarelin increased insulinemia and blood glucose levels in obese but not in lean rats, left unaltered the high triglyceride levels but significantly decreased plasma cholesterol concentrations in obese rats. Heart preparations from lean and obese Zucker rats treated with saline, subjected to low flow ischemia and reperfusion, showed at reperfusion: a) a low recovery of postischemic left ventricular developed pressure (LVDP), coupled to a substantial increase in coronary perfusion pressure, and b) a marked increase in creatine kinase released in the perfusates. Hexare! lin administration for 30 days counteracted the heart ischemic damage both in lean and obese Zucker rats. In fact, the recovery of LVDP at reperfusion was significantly higher than in controls and the increase in coronary resistance was minimal. Collectively, these data indicate that a 30-day treatment with hexarelin was unable to improve somatotropic function in male obese Zucker rats but was successful in decreasing plasma cholesterol concentrations. Hexarelin exerted a cardioprotective effect in both lean and obese rats. The heart-protective activity afforded by the peptide was divorced from any stimulation of the GH axis and is probably exerted through activation of specific cardiac receptors.

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D Cocchi, V De Gennaro Colonna, M Bagnasco, D Bonacci and EE Muller

Leptin is a hormonal product of adipose tissue whose expression reflects the body state of nutritional reserves. Previous experiments have demonstrated that leptin is one of the metabolic signals capable of regulating GH secretion. The aim of the present study was to evaluate whether CNS-mediated mechanisms underlie the GH-releasing activity of leptin. Freely moving mature male rats were injected i.c.v with leptin or isovolumetric amounts of diluent once daily for 3 days and were killed 2 h after the last administration. Central injection of leptin increased pituitary GH mRNA levels by 53. 2% and hypothalamic GHRH mRNA by 61.8%, and reduced somatostatin mRNA levels by 41.5%. To evaluate the direct effect of leptin on the pituitary, it was added alone or in combination with GHRH to primary cultures of anterior pituitary cells. Addition of leptin (10(-11)-10(-7) M) did not alter basal GH release nor the GH-releasing activity of GHRH. These results demonstrate that leptin is a metabolic signal that regulates GH secretion in the rat by acting on hypothalamic GH-regulatory hormones.

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L Cattaneo, V De Gennaro Colonna, M Zoli, E E Müller and D Cocchi


Obesity is coupled to several disturbances of the endocrine axes. It has previously been shown that genetically obese Zucker male rats have an impaired secretion of growth hormone (GH), probably originating from a primary reduction of hypothalamic GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) function and resulting in a decrease of GH gene expression and release. We sought to evaluate the somatotropic function in another model of experimental obesity. Normal male Sprague-Dawley rats were fed an energy-rich highly palatable diet for 7 months until they reached body weights overlapping those reported for obese Zucker rats. They were then evaluated for different indices of the hypothalamo–pituitary–somatomedin-C (IGF-I) axis. At the end of the overfeeding period, rats were divided into overtly obese (obese group) and overweight (overweight group) rats according to the degree of overweight and the Obesity Lee Index, while rats fed ad libitum with the standard pellet chow served as controls. Acute administration of a supramaximal dose of GHRH (2 μg/rat i.v.) elicited a significantly (at least P<0·05) lower plasma GH rise in the overweight and obese groups compared with the controls although no difference was seen in the pituitary GH content and gene expression and plasma concentrations of free IGF-I in the two experimental groups vs the controls. In addition, evaluation of hypothalamic GHRH and somatostatin mRNAs (slot-blot hybridization) did not show any significant differences between the three groups. Of the different metabolic indices investigated, plasma glucose and insulin concentrations were significantly (P<0·01) higher in the obese than in the overweight and control groups. A sharp decrease in plasma testosterone levels, together with a reduction in testis weight, was seen in both groups of rats fed the palatable diet compared with the controls. These findings underline the 'peripheral' feature of the hyposomatotropinism of rats chronically fed an energy-rich diet, and may account for the reversibility of the GH impairment in many obese subjects once a normal body weight has been restored. Moreover, the peripherally-driven hyposomatotropinism of these rats is in sharp contrast with the hypothalamic-driven GH secretory impairment of the obese Zucker rats.

Journal of Endocrinology (1996) 148, 347–353

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S. G. Cella, V. De Gennaro Colonna, V. Locatelli, V. Moiraghi, S. Loche, W. B. Wehrenberg and E. E. Müller


It is known that in adult rats, GH by itself and by promoting secretion of the somatomedins acts at the level of the hypothalamus to trigger release of somatostatin and decrease output of GH-releasing hormone (GHRH), thereby inhibiting further secretion of GH. To assess whether these mechanisms are already operative in the early postnatal period, we have evaluated the effect of short-term administration of GH in 10-day-old rats. Twice-daily s.c. administration of 25 μg human GH/rat, from days 5 to 9 of life, significantly reduced pituitary content of GH, decreased hypothalamic levels of GHRH mRNA and abolished the in-vivo GH response to a challenge dose of GHRH (20 ng/100 g body weight, s.c.). GHRH (20 ng/100 g body weight, twice daily, s.c.) given concomitantly with the GH treatment, completely counteracted the inhibitory effect of the latter on pituitary content of GH and restored to normal the in-vivo GH response to the GHRH challenge. These data indicate that impaired secretion of GHRH is involved in the inhibitory effect elicited by GH treatment in infant rats. However, concomitant involvement of hypothalamic somatostatin as a result of GH treatment cannot be ruled out. In fact, pituitaries from rats pretreated with GH responded in the same manner as pituitaries from control rats to the GHRH challenge in vitro.

Journal of Endocrinology (1990) 124, 199–205

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S G Cella, V Locatelli, M L Broccia, E Menegola, E Giavini, V De Gennaro Colonna, A Torsello, W B Wehrenberg and E E Müller


We have studied the effects of intra-amniotic administration of an anti-GH-releasing hormone serum (GHRH-Ab) on day 16 of fetal life in the rat, when the ontogenetic development of the GHRH neuronal system occurs. Control animals received normal rabbit serum. Following delivery, body weight was monitored for the next 30 days as an index of somatic growth, and the following indices of somatotrophic function were determined: plasma and pituitary GH, pituitary GH mRNA, hypothalamic GHRH and somatostatin mRNA, and the in vivo GH responsiveness to GHRH. At birth, GHRH-Ab-treated rats had a body weight that was equivalent to that of control rats but, starting from postnatal day 6 up to day 30, they had a significantly reduced body weight. Pituitary weight, the absolute pituitary GH content and GH mRNA levels were lower in experimental compared with control rats, while pituitary GH concentrations were similar in the two groups, thus implying that there was a defect, not only in GH synthesis, but also in GH release. In agreement with this theory, basal GH levels and GHRH-stimulated GH secretion were reduced in GHRH-Ab-treated rats but, in contrast, hypothalamic regulation of GH secretion appeared to be working in these rats as they were still able to respond to the low plasma GH by increasing GHRH and decreasing somatostatin mRNA levels. These findings indicate that deprivation of GHRH during fetal life induces long-lasting changes of growth rate and somatotrophic function. In addition, when comparing these changes with those in rats given GHRH-Ab postnatally, it would appear that deprivation of GHRH affects different regulatory levels of the hypothalamo-pituitary-somatotroph axis depending on when the deprivation occurs.

Journal of Endocrinology (1994) 140, 111–117