Somatotropic Axis and Nutrition in Young Ruminants around Weaning Time

  • Katoh, K. (Department of Animal Physiology, Postgraduate School of Agricultural Science Tohoku University) ;
  • Takahashi, T. (Department of Animal Physiology, Postgraduate School of Agricultural Science Tohoku University) ;
  • Kobayashi, Y. (Department of Animal Physiology, Postgraduate School of Agricultural Science Tohoku University) ;
  • Obara, Y. (Department of Animal Physiology, Postgraduate School of Agricultural Science Tohoku University)
  • Published : 2007.07.01


The somatotropic (GH-IGF-I) axis consists of many hormonal and nutritional factors that control GH release from the somatotrophs in the anterior pituitary. The GH-releasing substances are GHRH and GHS (GHRP or ghrelin), while the GH release-inhibiting substances are somatostatin (SRIF), insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), leptin and glucocorticoids. However, there is evidence showing that nutrition is involved in the control of the somatotropic axis. In addition, weaning is a drastic event for neonates because their alimentary and endocrine circumstances are changed due to the switch, even if gradual, from a liquid milk diet to one composed of such solids as hay and grains. The biological role of ghrelin is one of the hormonal factors that have been focused on ever since ghrelin was discovered at the end of the last century. A 27-amino acid peptide that is mainly synthesized and released from the abomasum epithelium, ghrelin has not been fully evaluated in relation to the somatotropic axis of the ruminant. It has also proven difficult even to investigate the cellular mechanisms of ghrelin action, because this hormone exerts animal-species-dependent actions via a complex set of intracellular signaling pathways. This is also the case for the action of leptin. Another substance, IGF-I, shows a partial inhibitory action on GH secretion in the ruminant. The effect of nutrition is also different among animal species. This is evident by the fact that undernutrition suppresses the circulating GH levels in rodents, but increases it in ruminants and humans. Recently, weaning has been shown to change the postprandial GH responses in ruminants; milk feeding increases, but hay and concentrate feeding suppress, the postprandial circulating GH levels. Even if the postprandial GH level is increased, the ghrelin level is decreased by milk feeding. Macronutrients also possess stimulatory and inhibitory actions on GH secretion in vivo and in vitro. These findings indicate the complexity of the control mechanisms of the somatotropic axis. In the present review, we summarize recent findings on the factors controlling the axis of the ruminant.


Ruminant;Somatotropic Axis;Nutrition;Weaning;Development


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