In the current study, we sought to determine the significance of the ghrelin system in Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS). PWS is characterized by hypotonia and difficulty feeding in neonates and hyperphagia and obesity beginning later in childhood. Other features include low GH, neonatal hypoglycemia, hypogonadism, and accelerated mortality. Although the hyperphagia and obesity in PWS have been attributed to elevated levels of the orexigenic hormone ghrelin, this link has never been firmly established, nor have ghrelin's potentially protective actions to increase GH secretion, blood glucose, and survival been investigated in a PWS context. In the current study, we show that placing Snord116del mice modeling PWS on ghrelin-deficient or ghrelin receptor [GH secretagogue receptor (GHSR)]-deficient backgrounds does not impact their characteristically reduced body weight, lower plasma IGF-1, delayed sexual maturation, or increased mortality in the period prior to weaning. However, blood glucose was further reduced in male Snord116del pups on a ghrelin-deficient background, and percentage body weight gain and percentage fat mass were further reduced in male Snord116del pups on a GHSR-deficient background. Strikingly, 2 weeks of daily administration of the GHSR agonist HM01 to Snord116del neonates markedly improved survival, resulting in a nearly complete rescue of the excess mortality owing to loss of the paternal Snord116 gene. These data support further exploration of the therapeutic potential of GHSR agonist administration in limiting PWS mortality, especially during the period characterized by failure to thrive.
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