The Central Sirtuin 1/p53 Pathway Is Essential for the Orexigenic Action of Ghrelin

  1. Carlos Diéguez1,2
  1. 1Department of Physiology, School of Medicine—Instituto de Investigaciones Sanitarias (IDIS), University of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
  2. 2CIBER Fisiopatologia de la Obesidad y Nutricion (CIBERobn), University of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
  3. 3Catarinense Institut of Environmental Research and Human Development, Capivari de Baixo, Santa Catarina, Brazil
  4. 4Department of Cell Biology and Ecology, University of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
  1. Corresponding authors: Ruben Nogueiras, ruben.nogueiras{at}, and Carlos Diéguez, carlos.dieguez{at}


OBJECTIVE Ghrelin is a stomach-derived peptide that increases food intake through the activation of hypothalamic AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). However, the molecular mechanisms initiated by the activation of the ghrelin receptor, which in turn lead to AMPK activation, remain unclear. Sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) is a deacetylase activated in response to calorie restriction that acts through the tumor suppressor gene p53. We tested the hypothesis that the central SIRT1/p53 pathway might be mediating the orexigenic action of ghrelin.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS SIRT1 inhibitors, such as Ex527 and sirtinol, and AMPK activators, such as AICAR, were administered alongside ghrelin in the brain of rats and mice (wild-type versus p53 knockout [KO]). Their hypothalamic effects on lipid metabolism and changes in transcription factors and neuropeptides were assessed by Western blot and in situ hybridization.

RESULTS The central pretreatment with Ex527, a potent SIRT1 inhibitor, blunted the ghrelin-induced food intake in rats. Mice lacking p53, a target of SIRT1 action, failed to respond to ghrelin in feeding behavior. Ghrelin failed to phosphorylate hypothalamic AMPK when rats were pretreated with Ex527, as it did in p53 KO mice. It is noteworthy that the hypothalamic SIRT1/p53 pathway seems to be specific for mediating the orexigenic action of ghrelin, because central administration of AICAR, a potent AMPK activator, increased food intake in p53 KO mice. Finally, blockade of the central SIRT1 pathway did not modify ghrelin-induced growth hormone secretion.

CONCLUSIONS Ghrelin specifically triggers a central SIRT1/p53 pathway that is essential for its orexigenic action, but not for the release of growth hormone.

  • Received June 8, 2010.
  • Accepted January 25, 2011.

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