GH participates in growth, metabolism, and cellular differentiation. To study these roles, we previously generated two different dwarf mouse lines, one expressing a GH antagonist (GHA) and the other having a disrupted GH receptor and binding protein gene (GHR -/-). In this study we compared the two dwarf lines in the same genetic background (C57BL/6J). One of the most striking differences between the mouse lines was their weight gain profile after weaning. The weights of the GHA dwarfs gradually approached controls over time, but the weights of the GHR -/- dwarfs remained low throughout the analysis period. Additionally, fasting insulin and glucose levels were reduced in the GHR -/- mice but normal in the GHA mice. IGF-I and IGF binding protein 3 (IGFBP-3) levels were significantly reduced, but by different degrees, in both mouse lines, but IGFBP-1 and -4 levels were reduced and IGFBP-2 levels increased in GHR -/- mice but unaltered in GHA mice. Finally, life span was significantly extended for the GHR -/- mice but remained unchanged for GHA dwarfs. These results suggest that the degree of blockade of GH signaling can lead to dramatically different phenotypes.
Secretion of growth hormone (GH), and consequently that of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), declines over time until only low levels can be detected in individuals aged ≥60 years. This phenomenon, which is known as the ‘somatopause’, has led to recombinant human GH being widely promoted and abused as an antiageing drug, despite lack of evidence of efficacy. By contrast, several mutations that decrease the tone of the GH/IGF-1 axis are associated with extended longevity in mice. In humans, corresponding or similar mutations have been identified, but whether these mutations alter longevity has yet to be established. The powerful effect of reduced GH activity on lifespan extension in mice has generated the hypothesis that pharmaceutically inhibiting, rather than increasing, GH action might delay ageing. Moreover, mice as well as humans with reduced activity of the GH/IGF-1 axis are protected from cancer and diabetes mellitus, two major ageing-related morbidities. Here, we review data on mouse strains with alterations in the GH/IGF-1 axis and their effects on lifespan. The outcome of corresponding or similar mutations in humans is described, as well as the potential mechanisms underlying increased longevity and the therapeutic benefits and risks of medical disruption of the GH/IGF-1 axis in humans.
Growth hormone (GH) is produced primarily by anterior pituitary somatotroph cells. Numerous acute human (h) GH treatment and long-term follow-up studies and extensive use of animal models of GH action have shaped the body of GH research over the past 40-50 years. Work on the GH receptor (R) knockout (GHRKO) mice and results of studies on GH resistant Laron Syndrome (LS) patients have helped define many physiological actions of GH including those dealing with metabolism, obesity, cancer, diabetes, cognition, and aging/longevity. In this review, we have discussed several issues dealing with these biological effects of GH and attempt to answer the question of whether decreased GH action may be beneficial.
Although studies of Ames and Snell dwarf mice have suggested possible important roles of the growth hormone (GH)/insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) axis in aging and age-related diseases, the results cannot rule out the possibility of other hormonal changes playing an important role in the life extension exhibited by these dwarf mice. Therefore, growth hormone receptor/binding protein (GHR/BP) knockout (KO) mice would be valuable animals to directly assess the roles of somatotropic axis in aging and age-related diseases because the primary hormonal change is due to GH/IGF-1 deficiency. Our pathological findings showed GHR/BP KO mice to have a lower incidence and delayed occurrence of fatal neoplastic lesions compared with their wild-type littermates. These changes of fatal neoplasms are similar to the effects observed with calorie restriction and therefore could possibly be a major contributing factor to the extended life span observed in the GHR/BP KO mice.
Weight loss triggers important metabolic responses to conserve energy, especially via the fall in leptin levels. Consequently, weight loss becomes increasingly difficult with weight regain commonly occurring in most dieters. Here we show that central growth hormone (GH) signaling also promotes neuroendocrine adaptations during food deprivation. GH activates agouti-related protein (AgRP) neurons and GH receptor (GHR) ablation in AgRP cells mitigates highly characteristic hypothalamic and metabolic adaptations induced by weight loss. Thus, the capacity of mice carrying an AgRP-specific GHR ablation to save energy during food deprivation is impaired, leading to increased fat loss. Additionally, administration of a clinically available GHR antagonist (pegvisomant) attenuates the fall of whole-body energy expenditure of food-deprived mice, similarly as seen by leptin treatment. Our findings indicate GH as a starvation signal that alerts the brain about energy deficiency, triggering key adaptive responses to conserve limited fuel stores.
GH is an important regulator of body growth and composition as well as numerous other metabolic processes. In particular, liver plays a key role in the GH/IGF-I axis, because the majority of circulating "endocrine" IGF-I results from GH-stimulated liver IGF-I production. To develop a better understanding of the role of liver in the overall function of GH, we generated a strain of mice with liver-specific GH receptor (GHR) gene knockout (LiGHRKO mice). LiGHRKO mice had a 90% decrease in circulating IGF-I levels, a 300% increase in circulating GH, and significant changes in IGF binding protein (IGFBP)-1, IGFBP-2, IGFBP-3, IGFBP-5, and IGFBP-7. LiGHRKO mice were smaller than controls, with body length and body weight being significantly decreased in both sexes. Analysis of body composition over time revealed a pattern similar to those found in GH transgenic mice; that is, LiGHRKO mice had a higher percentage of body fat at early ages followed by lower percentage of body fat in adulthood. Local IGF-I mRNA levels were significantly increased in skeletal muscle and select adipose tissue depots. Grip strength was increased in LiGHRKO mice. Finally, circulating levels of leptin, resistin, and adiponectin were increased in LiGHRKO mice. In conclusion, LiGHRKO mice are smaller despite increased local mRNA expression of IGF-I in several tissues, suggesting that liver-derived IGF-I is indeed important for normal body growth. Furthermore, our data suggest that novel GH-dependent cross talk between liver and adipose is important for regulation of adipokines in vivo.
Obesity has become one of the most common medical problems in developed countries, and this disorder is associated with high incidences of hypertension, dyslipidaemia, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus and specific cancers. Growth hormone (GH) stimulates the production of insulin-like growth factor 1 in most tissues, and together GH and insulin-like growth factor 1 exert powerful collective actions on fat, protein and glucose metabolism. Clinical trials assessing the effects of GH treatment in patients with obesity have shown consistent reductions in total adipose tissue mass, in particular abdominal and visceral adipose tissue depots. Moreover, studies in patients with abdominal obesity demonstrate a marked effect of GH therapy on body composition and on lipid and glucose homeostasis. Therefore, administration of recombinant human GH or activation of endogenous GH production has great potential to influence the onset and metabolic consequences of obesity. However, the clinical use of GH is not without controversy, given conflicting results regarding its effects on glucose metabolism. This Review provides an introduction to the role of GH in obesity and summarizes clinical and preclinical data that describe how GH can influence the obese state.
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