An immunohistochemical study of the localization and developmental expression of ghrelin and its functional receptor in the ovine placenta

Joanne Lesley Harrison, Clare L. Adam, Yvonne A. Brown, Jacqueline Moira Wallace, Raymond P. Aitken, Richard G. Lea, David Warren Miller

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34 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Ghrelin is an orexigenic hormone principally produced by the stomach, but also by numerous peripheral tissues including the placenta. Ghrelin acts via growth hormone secretagogue receptors (GHSR-1a) to alter food intake, fat utilization, and cellular proliferation, and has been suggested to play a role in the developmental growth of the fetoplacental unit. The placental expression of ghrelin and its role in ruminant species is not known. We tested the hypotheses that ghrelin and its functional receptor, GHSR-1a, are present in tissues of the ovine placenta, and that their expression is linked to the stage of development.

Methods: Antibodies raised against ghrelin and GHSR-1a were used in standard immunohistochemical protocols on placental tissues collected from pregnant ewes ( n = 6 per gestational time point) at days 50, 80, 100, 128 and 135 of gestation (term approximate to day 145). Immunostaining for ghrelin and GHSR-1a was quantified using computer-aided image analysis. Image analysis data were subjected to one-way ANOVA, with differences in immunostaining between time-points determined by Fisher's least significant difference.

Results: Positive immunostaining for ghrelin was detected in ovine placentae at all gestational time points, with staining localized to the maternal epithelium, caruncle and trophectoderm. There was a significant effect of gestational age (p < 0.001) on the placental expression of ghrelin, with maximal levels at gestational day 80. GHSR-1a immunostaining was detected in the fetal trophectoderm at all time points. In contrast to the gestational pattern of ghrelin expression, there was no effect of gestational age on placental GHSR-1a immunoexpression.

Conclusion: Ghrelin and GHSR-1a are both present in the ovine placenta, and ghrelin displays a developmentally-related pattern of expression. Therefore, these data strongly suggest that the ghrelin system may have a role in feto-placental development in sheep.

Original languageEnglish
Article number25
Number of pages8
JournalReproductive Biology and Endocrinology
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2007


  • hormone secretagogue receptor
  • overnourished adolescent sheepT
  • GH secretagogues
  • gestational-age
  • endocrine status
  • gene-expression
  • natural ghrelin
  • plasma ghrelin
  • fetal-growth
  • cell-lines


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