Ghrelin is neuroprotective in Parkinson's disease: molecular mechanisms of metabolic neuroprotection

Jacqueline Bayliss, Zane Bruce Andrews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Ghrelin is a circulating orexigenic signal that rises with prolonged fasting and falls postprandially. Ghrelin regulates energy homeostasis by stimulating appetite and body weight; however, it also has many nonmetabolic functions including enhanced learning and memory, anxiolytic effects as well as being neuroprotective. In Parkinson s disease, ghrelin enhances dopaminergic survival via reduced microglial and caspase activation and improved mitochondrial function. As mitochondrial dysfunction contributes to Parkinson s disease, any agent that enhances mitochondrial function could be a potential therapeutic target. We propose that ghrelin provides neuroprotective effects via AMPK (5 adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase) activation and enhanced mitophagy (removal of damaged mitochondria) to ultimately enhance mitochondrial bioenergetics. AMPK activation shifts energy balance from a negative to a neutral state and has a role in regulating mitochondrial biogenesis and reducing reactive oxygen species production. Mitophagy is important in Parkinson s disease because damaged mitochondria produce reactive oxygen species resulting in damage to intracellular proteins, lipids and DNA predisposing them to neurodegeneration. Many genetic mutations linked to Parkinson s disease are due to abnormal mitochondrial function and mitophagy, for example LRRK2, PINK1 and Parkin. An interaction between ghrelin and these classic Parkinson s disease markers has not been observed, however by enhancing mitochondrial function, ghrelin or AMPK is a potential therapeutic target for slowing the progression of Parkinson s disease symptoms, both motor and nonmotor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25 - 36
Number of pages12
JournalTherapeutic Advances in Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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