Ghrelin and the growth hormone secretagogue receptor constitute a novel autocrine pathway in astrocytoma motility

Vishwa Deep Dixit, Ashani T. Weeraratna, Hyunwon Yang, Dorothy Bertak, Anthony Cooper-Jenkins, Gregory J. Riggins, Charles G. Eberhart, Dennis D. Taub

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Originally thought of as a stomach-derived endocrine peptide acting via its receptors in the central nervous system to stimulate food intake and growth hormone expression, ghrelin and its receptor (growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHS-R)) are widely expressed in a number of organ systems, including cancer cells. However, the direct functional role of ghrelin and its receptor in tumors of central nervous system origin remains to be defined. Here, we demonstrate that the human astrocytoma cell lines U-118, U-87, CCF-STTG1, and SW1088 express 6-, 11-, 15-, and 29-fold higher levels of GHS-R compared with primary normal human astrocytes. The ligation of GHS-R by ghrelin on these cells resulted in an increase in intracellular calcium mobilization, protein kinase C activation, actin polymerization, matrix metalloproteinase-2 activity, and astrocytoma motility. In addition, ghrelin led to actin polymerization and membrane ruffling on cells, with the specific co-localization of the small GTPase Rac1 with GHS-R on the leading edge of the astrocytoma cells and imparting the tumor cells with a motile phenotype. Disruption of the endogenous ghrelin/GHS-R pathway by RNA interference resulted in diminished motility, matrix metalloproteinase activity, and Rac expression, whereas tumor cells stably overexpressing GHS-R exhibited increased cell motility. The relevance of ghrelin and GHS-R expression was verified in clinically relevant tissues from 20 patients with oligodendrogliomas and grade II-IV astrocytomas. Analysis of a central nervous system tumor tissue microarray revealed that strong GHS-R and ghrelin expression was significantly more common in high grade tumors compared with low grade ones. Together, these findings suggest a novel role for the ghrelin/GHS-R axis in astrocytoma cell migration and invasiveness of cancers of central nervous system origin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16681-16690
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number24
StatePublished - Jun 16 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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