Although avian and mammalian species differ significantly in their regulation of GH secretion, preliminary studies have demonstrated in vivo GH responses to ghrelin in chickens, as in mammals. However, the relative potency of ghrelin as a GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) in birds is uncertain, as is its site of action.The intravenous administration of human ghrelin to immature chickens promptly increased the circulating GH concentration (within 10 min), although this was transitory and was only maintained for 20 min. This GH response was dose-related with an EC50 of approximately 3.0 microg/kg, comparable with the reported potency of human GHRH in chickens. When incubated with dispersed pituitary cells, human ghrelin induced dose-dependent GH release over a range of 10(-6) to 10(-9) M, with an EC50 of 7.0 x 10(-8) M, comparable with that induced by human GHRH (EC50 6.0 x 10(-8) M), although it was less effective at doses of 10(-6) to 10(-8) M. This was due to direct effects on pituitary somatotrophs, since human ghrelin increased GH release (determined by the reverse hemolytic plaque assay) from individual pituitary cells. The incubation of these cells with human ghrelin induced a dose-dependent increase in the numbers of somatotrophs secreting GH and in the amount of GH released by each cell. In summary, these results demonstrated that ghrelin is a dose-related GH-releasing factor in chickens with a potency comparable with that induced by human GHRH. The GH-releasing action of ghrelin is due, at least in part, to stimulatory actions on the numbers of somatotrophs induced to release GH and upon the amount of GH released from individual somatotrophs.
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