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Motoyasu Satou, Yoshihiro Nishi, Akira Hishinuma, Hiroshi Hosoda, Kenji Kangawa, and Hiroyuki Sugimoto

Ghrelin is a natural GH secretagogue first identified in the stomach. The ghrelin peptide is 28 amino acids long with an octanoic acid attached to Ser3 near the N-terminus. This lipid modification is essential for the interaction between ghrelin and the ghrelin-specific receptor GH secretagogue receptor type 1a (GHSR1a), whereas the five or more residues of the N-terminus seem to be sufficient to activate GHSR1a to the same level as those of full-length ghrelin. In this study, we found that ghrelin was converted into smaller fragments during incubation with animal plasma in vitro and in a mouse model. Mass spectrometric analysis revealed that both acyl and desacyl ghrelin were hydrolyzed at the peptide bond between Arg15 and Lys16, generating an N-terminal peptide consisting of the first 15 residues. Next, we partially purified a ghrelin endopeptidase from bovine plasma and identified the enzyme as an anticoagulant serine protease-activated protein C. Octanoyl-truncated ghrelin(1–15) activated GHSR1a-dependent signaling similar to the full-length peptide, as assayed using the cell-based early-growth factor 1 reporter system. Moreover, administration of the protein C-activating agent, ProTac, to mice enhanced the production of octanoyl ghrelin(1–15) in circulation. These results indicate that ghrelin is processed into shorter peptides in circulation under thrombotic and inflammatory conditions, although high doses of the short-form or full-length ghrelin did not have any obvious effects on thromboplastin time or platelet aggregation in human plasma. Truncation of ghrelin might be responsible for altering structural characteristics such as stability, hydrophobicity, and affinity with circulating macromolecules.

Open access

Hiroharu Mifune, Yuji Tajiri, Yusuke Sakai, Yukie Kawahara, Kento Hara, Takahiro Sato, Yoshihiro Nishi, Akinori Nishi, Ryouichi Mitsuzono, Tatsuyuki Kakuma, and Masayasu Kojima

We previously reported that voluntary exercise contributed to the amelioration of abnormal feeding behavior with a concomitant restoration of ghrelin production in a rat model of obesity, suggesting a possible relationship between exercise and appetite-regulating hormones. Ghrelin is known to be involved in the brain reward circuits via dopamine neurons related to motivational properties. We investigated the relevance of ghrelin as an initiator of voluntary exercise as well as feeding behavior. The plasma ghrelin concentration fluctuates throughout the day with its peak at the beginning of the dark period in the wild-type (WT) mice with voluntary exercise. Although predominant increases in wheel running activity were observed accordant to the peak of plasma ghrelin concentration in the WT mice, those were severely attenuated in the ghrelin-knockout (GKO) mice under either ad libitum or time-restricted feeding. A single injection of ghrelin receptor agonist brought about and reproduced a marked enhancement of wheel running activity, in contrast to no effect by the continuous administration of the same drug. Brain dopamine levels (DAs) were enhanced after food consumption in the WT mice under voluntary exercise. Although the acceleration of DAs were apparently blunted in the GKO mice, they were dramatically revived after the administration of ghrelin receptor agonist, suggesting the relevance of ghrelin in the reward circuit under voluntary exercise. These findings emphasize that the surge of ghrelin plays a crucial role in the formation of motivation for the initiation of voluntary exercise possibly related to the central dopamine system.

Free access

Hiroharu Mifune, Yuji Tajiri, Yusuke Sakai, Yukie Kawahara, Kento Hara, Takahiro Sato, Yoshihiro Nishi, Akinori Nishi, Ryouichi Mitsuzono, Tatsuyuki Kakuma, and Masayasu Kojima

Free access

Ruijuan Gao, Lijuan Zhao, Xichun Liu, Brian G Rowan, Martin Wabitsch, Dean P Edwards, Yoshihiro Nishi, Toshihiko Yanase, Qun Yu, and Yan Dong

Elevated circulating estrogen levels, as a result of increased peripheral aromatization of androgens by aromatase, have been indicated to underlie the association between obesity and a higher risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Although aromatase inhibitors have been used as a first-line therapy for estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women, their potential as breast cancer chemopreventive agents has been limited due to toxicities and high costs. It is therefore imperative to develop new aromatase-inhibiting/suppressing agents with lower toxicities and lower costs for breast cancer chemoprevention, especially in obese postmenopausal women. The expression of the aromatase gene, CYP19, is controlled in a tissue-specific manner by the alternate use of different promoters. In obese postmenopausal women, increased peripheral aromatase is primarily attributed to the activity of the glucocorticoid-stimulated promoter, PI.4, and the cAMP-stimulated promoter, PII. In the present study, we show that methylseleninic acid (MSA), a second-generation selenium compound, can effectively suppress aromatase activation by dexamethasone, a synthetic glucocorticoid, and forskolin, a specific activator of adenylate cyclase. Unlike the action of aromatase inhibitors, MSA suppression of aromatase activation is not mediated via direct inhibition of aromatase enzymatic activity. Rather, it is attributable to a marked downregulation of promoters PI.4- and PII-specific aromatase mRNA expression, and thereby a reduction of aromatase protein. Considering the low-cost and low-toxicity nature of MSA, our findings provide a strong rationale for the further development of MSA as a breast cancer chemopreventive agent for obese postmenopausal women.