Ghrelin modulates baroreflex-regulation of sympathetic vasomotor tone in healthy humans

Alexander F. Krapalis, Jacqueline Reiter, Felix Machleidt, K. Alexander Iwen, Christoph Dodt, Hendrik Lehnert, Friedhelm Sayk*

*Corresponding author for this work
16 Citations (Scopus)


Ghrelin, a neuropeptide originally known for its growth hormone-releasing and orexigenic properties, exerts important pleiotropic effects on the cardiovascular system. Growing evidence suggests that these effects are mediated by the sympathetic nervous system. The present study aimed at elucidating the acute effect of ghrelin on sympathetic outflow to the muscle vascular bed (muscle sympathetic nerve activity, MSNA) and on baroreflex-mediated arterial blood pressure (BP) regulation in healthy humans. In a randomized double-blind cross-over design, 12 lean young men were treated with a single dose of either ghrelin 2 μg/kg iv or placebo (isotonic saline). MSNA, heart rate (HR), and BP were recorded continuously from 30 min before until 90 min after substance administration. Sensitivity of arterial baroreflex was repeatedly tested by injection of vasoactive substances based on the modified Oxford protocol. Early, i.e., during the initial 30 min after ghrelin injection, BP significantly decreased together with a transient increase of MSNA and HR. In the course of the experiment (>30 min), BP approached placebo level, while MSNA and HR were significantly lower compared with placebo. The sensitivity of vascular arterial baroreflex significantly increased at 30-60 min after intravenous ghrelin compared with placebo, while HR response to vasoactive drugs was unaltered. Our findings suggest two distinct phases of ghrelin action: In the immediate phase, BP is decreased presumably due to its vasodilating effects, which trigger baroreflex-mediated counter-regulation with increases of HR and MSNA. In the delayed phase, central nervous sympathetic activity is suppressed, accompanied by an increase of baroreflex sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 01.06.2012


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