Acylated and unacylated ghrelin impair skeletal muscle atrophy in mice. Academic Article uri icon


  • Cachexia is a wasting syndrome associated with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and several other disease states. It is characterized by weight loss, fatigue, loss of appetite, and skeletal muscle atrophy and is associated with poor patient prognosis, making it an important treatment target. Ghrelin is a peptide hormone that stimulates growth hormone (GH) release and positive energy balance through binding to the receptor GHSR-1a. Only acylated ghrelin (AG), but not the unacylated form (UnAG), can bind GHSR-1a; however, UnAG and AG share several GHSR-1a-independent biological activities. Here we investigated whether UnAG and AG could protect against skeletal muscle atrophy in a GHSR-1a-independent manner. We found that both AG and UnAG inhibited dexamethasone-induced skeletal muscle atrophy and atrogene expression through PI3K-, mTORC2-, and p38-mediated pathways in myotubes. Upregulation of circulating UnAG in mice impaired skeletal muscle atrophy induced by either fasting or denervation without stimulating muscle hypertrophy and GHSR-1a-mediated activation of the GH/IGF-1 axis. In Ghsr-deficient mice, both AG and UnAG induced phosphorylation of Akt in skeletal muscle and impaired fasting-induced atrophy. These results demonstrate that AG and UnAG act on a common, unidentified receptor to block skeletal muscle atrophy in a GH-independent manner.

published proceedings

  • J Clin Invest

altmetric score

  • 23.4

author list (cited authors)

  • Porporato, P. E., Filigheddu, N., Reano, S., Ferrara, M., Angelino, E., Gnocchi, V. F., ... Graziani, A.

citation count

  • 156

complete list of authors

  • Porporato, Paolo E||Filigheddu, Nicoletta||Reano, Simone||Ferrara, Michele||Angelino, Elia||Gnocchi, Viola F||Prodam, Flavia||Ronchi, Giulia||Fagoonee, Sharmila||Fornaro, Michele||Chianale, Federica||Baldanzi, Gianluca||Surico, Nicola||Sinigaglia, Fabiola||Perroteau, Isabelle||Smith, Roy G||Sun, Yuxiang||Geuna, Stefano||Graziani, Andrea

publication date

  • February 2013