The major ghrelin forms, acylated ghrelin and des-acylated ghrelin, are novel gastrointestinal hormones. Moreover, emerging evidence indicates that these peptides may have other functions including neuro- and vaso-protection. Here, we investigated whether post-stroke treatment with acylated ghrelin or des-acylated ghrelin could improve functional and histological endpoints of stroke outcome in mice after transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (tMCAo). We found that des-acylated ghrelin (1 mg/kg) improved neurological and functional performance, reduced infarct and swelling, and decreased apoptosis. In addition, it reduced blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption in vivo and attenuated the hyper-permeability of mouse cerebral microvascular endothelial cells after oxygen glucose deprivation and reoxygenation (OGD + RO). By contrast, acylated ghrelin (1 mg/kg or 5 mg/kg) had no significant effect on these endpoints of stroke outcome. Next we found that des-acylated ghrelin's vasoprotective actions were associated with increased expression of tight junction proteins (occludin and claudin-5), and decreased cell death. Moreover, it attenuated superoxide production, Nox activity and expression of 3-nitrotyrosine. Collectively, these results demonstrate that post-stroke treatment with des-acylated ghrelin, but not acylated ghrelin, protects against ischaemia/reperfusion-induced brain injury and swelling, and BBB disruption, by reducing oxidative and/or nitrosative damage.

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