Brain circuits mediating the orexigenic action of peripheral ghrelin: narrow gates for a vast kingdom
The nervous and endocrine systems act together to regulate all physiological processes essential for the body homeostasis control. Given the strict communication restrictions that the brain–blood barrier (BBB) imposes, the interplay between these two systems requires a variety of delicate anatomical interfaces and physiological mechanisms that guarantee the precise function of the neuroendocrine system as a whole. The study of the mechanisms by which hormones act in the brain in order to regulate specific neuronal populations is a research topic rather neglected. Our group studies the neuronal circuitries and molecular mechanisms by which the stomach-produced hormone ghrelin regulates appetite and other physiological functions. A clear notion of the brain targets of peripheral ghrelin is essential for the comprehensive understanding of the physiological role of this hormone. Ghrelin is called “the hunger hormone” since it is the only known orexigenic peptide hormone. The target for ghrelin orexigenic actions is the brain, which contains a variety of ghrelin-responsive nuclei; however, several evidences suggest that the accessibility of peripheral ghrelin to the brain is strikingly low. Here, we briefly summarize the current knowledge in this topic and discuss this intriguing neuroendocrinological issue.