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Ghrelin and aggressive behaviours—Evidence from preclinical and human genetic studies

Journal article
Authors Jesper Vestlund
Julia Winsa Jörnulf
Daniel Hovey
Sebastian Lundström
Paul Lichtenstein
Henrik Anckarsäter
Erik Studer
Petra Suchankova
Lars Westberg
Elisabeth Jerlhag
Published in Psychoneuroendocrinology
Volume 104
Pages 80-88
ISSN 03064530
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Pharmacology
Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre
Centre for Ethics, Law, and Mental Health
Pages 80-88
Language en
Keywords Addiction, Gut-brain axis, Serotonin, Social behaviour, Translational
Subject categories Neurosciences


© 2019 Aggressive behaviour is of crucial importance in the defence for limited resources including food and mates and involves central serotonin as well as dopamine signalling. As ghrelin modulates food intake and sexual behaviour we initially investigated the hypothesis that central ghrelin signalling regulates aggressive behaviour in the resident intruder paradigm in male mice. Moreover, interaction between ghrelin signalling and serotonergic, noradrenergic as well as dopaminergic neurotransmission in aggression was investigated. The relevance of ghrelin for human aggression per se as well as for aggression induced by alcohol was evaluated in a human genetic association study comprising young men (n = 784) from the normal population assessed for anti-social behaviours. The present study demonstrates that central ghrelin infusion, but not ghrelin administered systemically, increases aggression. Moreover aggressive behaviour is decreased by pharmacological suppression of the growth hormone secretagogue receptor-1 A (GHSR-1A) by JMV2959. As indicated by the ex vivo biochemical data serotonin, rather than dopamine or noradrenaline, in amygdala may have central roles for the ability of JMV2959 to reduce aggression. This link between central serotonin, GHSR-1A and aggression is further substantiated by the behavioural data showing that JMV2959 cannot decrease aggression following depletion of central serotonin signalling. The genetic association study demonstrates that males carrying the Leu72Leu genotype of the pre-pro-ghrelin gene and displaying hazardous alcohol use are more aggressive when compared to the group carrying the Met-allele. Collectively, this contributes to the identification of central ghrelin pathway as an important modulator in the onset of aggressive behaviours in male mice.

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