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María Belén Poretti, Camila Frautschi, Eugenia Luque, Santiago Bianconi, Ana Carolina Martini, Graciela Stutz, Laura Vincenti, Maria Emilia Santillán, Marina Ponzio, Helgi B Schiöth, Marta Fiol de Cuneo, and Valeria Paola Carlini

It has been demonstrated that food intake and reproductive physiology are both simultaneously modulated to optimize reproductive success under fluctuating metabolic conditions. Ghrelin (GHRL) is an orexigenic peptide identified as the endogenous ligand of the growth hormone secretagogue receptor that is being investigated for its potential role on reproduction. Considering that data available so far are still limited and characterization of GHRL action mechanism on the reproductive system has not been fully elucidated, we studied the participation of hypothalamus in GHRL effects on sperm functional activity, plasma levels of gonadotropins and histological morphology in mice testes after hypothalamic infusion of 0.3 or 3.0 nmol/day GHRL or artificial cerebrospinal fluid (ACSF) at different treatment periods. We found that GHRL 3.0 nmol/day administration for 42 days significantly reduced sperm concentration (GHRL 3.0 nmol/day = 14.05 ± 2.44 × 106/mL vs ACSF = 20.33 ± 1.35 × 106/mL, P < 0.05) and motility (GHRL 3.0 nmol/day = 59.40 ± 4.20% vs ACSF = 75.80 ± 1.40%, P < 0.05). In addition, histological studies showed a significant decrease percentage of spermatogonia (GHRL 3.0 nmol/day = 6.76 ± 0.68% vs ACSF = 9.56 ± 0.41%, P < 0.05) and sperm (GHRL 3.0 nmol/day = 24.24 ± 1.92% vs ACSF = 31.20 ± 3.06%, P < 0.05). These results were associated with a significant reduction in luteinizing hormone and testosterone plasma levels (P < 0.05). As GHRL is an orexigenic peptide, body weight and food intake were measured. Results showed that GHRL increases both parameters; however, the effect did not last beyond the first week of treatment. Results presented in this work confirm that central GHRL administration impairs spermatogenesis and suggest that this effect is mediated by inhibition of hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis.

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María Belén Poretti, Santiago Bianconi, Eugenia Luque, Ana Carolina Martini, Laura Vincenti, Veronica Cantarelli, Pedro Torres, Marina Ponzio, Helgi B Schiöth, and Valeria Paola Carlini

In brief

Ghrelin signals to the hypothalamus inhibit reproduction during times of food scarcity. In this study, we demonstrate that ghrelin impairs sperm quality in male mice.


Ghrelin (GHRL) is an orexigenic peptide that has been investigated as one of the signals responsible for the reproductive performance of mammals under fluctuating metabolic conditions. Central GHRL administration impairs spermatogenesis in mice by regulating the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis function. In the present study, the hypothalamus role as a mediator of GHRL effects on sperm fertilizing capacity and male sexual behavior was evaluated. After 42 days of hypothalamic GHRL infusion or artificial cerebrospinal fluid, in vitro and in vivo sperm fertilizing capacity, testicular α-tubulin, speriolin gene expression and spermatic α-tubulin protein were evaluated. Hypothalamic expression of genes Kiss1, Gpr54 and Gnrh was also studied. The second group of animals was infused with one time only GHRL or artificial cerebrospinal fluid into the hypothalamus to evaluate the effects on sexual behavior. Results demonstrated that chronic GHRL administration to male mice significantly increased the percentages of pre-implantation embryo loss and the number of post-implantation embryo loss. In relation to the gene expression, our results show a relative decrease of Kiss1, Gpr54 and Spatc1. Although no significant differences were observed in the quantitative expression of α-tubulin protein, qualitative changes in its expression pattern were observed. In addition, a dual effect on sexual behavior was observed: 40% of the treated animals showed a significant reduction in the number of mounts and intromissions, while a 60% showed a significant decrease in ejaculation latency vs control animals. In conclusion, our results provide evidence that central GHRL administration possibly induces failure in embryo development and/or implantation in the females mated with treated males, possibly because of a negative effect in the α-tubulin pattern.