Hindbrain catecholamine neurons modulate the growth hormone but not the feeding response to ghrelin.
The gastrointestinal peptide, ghrelin, elicits feeding and secretion when administered systemically or centrally. Previous studies have suggested that hypothalamic projections of hindbrain catecholamine neurons are involved in both of these actions of ghrelin. The purpose of this study was to further assess the role of hindbrain catecholamine neurons in ghrelin-induced feeding and GH secretion and to determine the anatomical distribution of the catecholamine neurons involved. We lesioned noradrenergic and adrenergic neurons that innervate the medial hypothalamus by microinjecting the retrogradely transported immunotoxin, saporin (SAP) conjugated to antidopamine-beta-hydroxylase (DSAP) into the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus. Controls were injected with unconjugated SAP. We found that the DSAP lesion did not impair the feeding response to central or peripheral ghrelin administration, indicating that these neurons are not required for ghrelin's orexigenic effect. However, the GH response to ghrelin was prolonged significantly in DSAP-lesioned rats. We also found that expression of Fos, an indicator of neuronal activation, was significantly enhanced over baseline levels in A1, A1/C1, C1, and A5 cell groups after ghrelin treatment and in A1, A1/C1, and A5 cell groups after GH treatment. The similar pattern of Fos expression in catecholamine cell groups after GH and ghrelin and the prolonged GH secretion in response to ghrelin in DSAP rats together suggest that activation of hindbrain catecholamine neurons by ghrelin or GH could be a component of a negative feedback response controlling GH levels.