Fasting results in a reciprocal shift in hypothalamic neuropeptide Y (NPY) and GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) expression in the adult male rat. It is hypothesized that the fasting-induced rise in NPY is responsible for the GHRH decline and subsequent attenuation of pulsatile GH release. Fasting also leads to a decrease in circulating IGF-I, attributed to both reduced GH release and peripheral GH resistance. Although pituitary GH output is suppressed in the fasted rat, we report herein that pituitary GHRH receptor (GHRH-R) and GH secretagogue receptor (GHS-R) mRNA levels are increased, while pituitary expression of the somatostatin receptor subtype 2 (sst2) and 5 (sst5) is decreased, as determined by real-time reverse transcription (RT)-PCR. A shift in the expression of pituitary receptor subtypes to favor GH synthesis and release may be due, at least in part, to a decline in GH/IGF-I negative feedback. In order to test this hypothesis, we compared hypothalamic and pituitary response to fasting (72 h) in normal male rats and rats with isolated GH deficiency (spontaneous dwarf rats (SDR)). Circulating GH levels were undetectable in SDR, and IGF-I levels were less than 10% of normal controls. Fasting stimulated NPY mRNA levels in SDR; however, the rise in NPY mRNA levels was not accompanied by a fall in GHRH mRNA, as observed in fasted normal rats. In fact, GHRH mRNA levels paradoxically rose in the fasted SDR to 135% of fed controls. At the pituitary level, fasting did not alter sst2 and sst5 mRNA levels in SDR but did stimulate the expression of GHRH-R and GHS-R to 165% and 149% of fed controls, respectively. These results demonstrate that the fasting-induced changes in pituitary expression of sst2 and sst5, but not GHRH-R and GHS-R, are GH/IGF-I dependent. In addition, these results argue against the theory that the negative association of NPY and GHRH expression observed following fasting represents a simple cause-and-effect relationship and suggest that GH, either directly or indirectly, mediates the effects of fasting on hypothalamic GHRH expression.
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