The anti-apoptotic effect of ghrelin on restraint stress-induced thymus atrophy in mice

Jun Ho Lee, Tae Jin Kim, Jie Wan Kim, Jeong Seon Yoon, Hyuk Soon Kim, Kyung Mi Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Thymic atrophy is a complication that results from exposure to many environmental stressors, disease treatments, and microbial challenges. Such acute stress-associated thymic loss can have a dramatic impact on the host’s ability to replenish the necessary naïve T cell output to reconstitute the peripheral T cell numbers and repertoire to respond to new antigenic challenges. We have previously reported that treatment with the orexigenic hormone ghrelin results in an increase in the number and proliferation of thymocytes after dexamethasone challenge, suggesting a role for ghrelin in restraint stress-induced thymic involution and cell apoptosis and its potential use as a thymostimulatory agent. In an effort to understand how ghrelin suppresses thymic T cell apoptosis, we have examined the various signaling pathways induced by receptor-specific ghrelin stimulation using a restraint stress mouse model. In this model, stress-induced apoptosis in thymocytes was effectively blocked by ghrelin. Western blot analysis demonstrated that ghrelin prevents the cleavage of pro-apoptotic proteins such as Bim, Caspase-3, and PARP. In addition, ghrelin stimulation activates the Akt and Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) signaling pathways in a time/dose-dependent manner. Moreover, we also revealed the involvement of the FoxO3a pathway in the phosphorylation of Akt and ERK1/2. Together, these findings suggest that ghrelin inhibits apoptosis by modulating the stress-induced apoptotic signal pathway in the restraint-induced thymic apoptosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-248
Number of pages7
JournalImmune Network
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Apoptosis
  • Ghrelin
  • Restraint stress
  • Thymic atrophy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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