Impact of [D-Lys3]-GHRP-6 and feeding status on hypothalamic ghrelin-induced stress activation

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Ghrelin administration directly into hypothalamic nuclei, including the arcuate nucleus (ArcN) and the paraventricular nucleus (PVN), alters the expression of stress-related behaviors. In the present study we investigated the effect of feeding status on the ability of ghrelin to induce stress and anxiogenesis. Adult male Sprague Dawley rats were implanted with guide cannula targeting either the ArcN or PVN. In the first experiment we confirmed that ArcN and PVN ghrelin treatment produced anxiety-like behavior as measured using the elevated plus maze (EPM) paradigm. Ghrelin was administered during the early dark cycle. Immediately after microinjections rats were placed in the EPM for 5 min. Both ArcN and PVN treatment reduced open arm exploration. The effect was attenuated by pretreatment with the ghrelin 1a receptor antagonist [D-Lys3]-GHRP-6. In a separate group of animals ghrelin was injected into either nucleus and rats were returned to their home cages for 60 min with free access to food. An additional group of rats was returned to home cages with no food access. After 60 min with or without food access all rats were tested in the EPM. Results indicated that food consumption just prior to EPM testing reversed the avoidance of the open arms of the EPM. In contrast, rats injected with ghrelin, placed in their home cage for 60 min without food, and subsequently tested in the EPM, exhibited an increased avoidance of the open arms, consistent with stress activation. Overall, our findings demonstrate that ghrelin 1a receptor blockade and feeding status appear to impact the ability of ArcN and PVN ghrelin to elicit stress and anxiety-like behaviors.

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