Ghrelin is a persistent biomarker for chronic stress exposure in adolescent rats and humans

Muhammad I.Ul Akbar Yousufzai, Elia S. Harmatz, Mohsin Shah, Muhammad O. Malik, Ki A. Goosens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Prolonged stressor exposure in adolescence enhances the risk of developing stress-sensitive mental illnesses, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for many years following exposure cessation, but the biological underpinnings of this long-term vulnerability are unknown. We show that severe stressor exposure increased circulating levels of the hormone acyl-ghrelin in adolescent rats for at least 130 days and in adolescent humans for at least 4.5 years. Using a rodent model of longitudinal PTSD vulnerability in which rodents with a history of stressor exposure during adolescence display enhanced fear in response to fear conditioning administered weeks after stressor exposure ends, we show that systemic delivery of a ghrelin receptor antagonist for 4 weeks surrounding stressor exposure (2 weeks during and 2 weeks following) prevented stress-enhanced fear memory. These data suggest that protracted exposure to elevated acyl-ghrelin levels mediates a persistent vulnerability to stress-enhanced fear after stressor exposure ends.

Original languageEnglish
Article number74
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


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