Kristen Morgan

Idenix Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

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Publications (3)7.78 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Ghrelin influences a variety of metabolic functions through a direct action at its receptor, the GhrR (GhrR-1a). Ghrelin knockout (KO) and GhrR KO mice are resistant to the negative effects of high-fat diet (HFD) feeding. We have generated several classes of small-molecule GhrR antagonists and evaluated whether pharmacologic blockade of ghrelin signaling can recapitulate the phenotype of ghrelin/GhrR KO mice. Antagonist treatment blocked ghrelin-induced and spontaneous food intake; however, the effects on spontaneous feeding were absent in GhrR KO mice, suggesting target-specific effects of the antagonists. Oral administration of antagonists to HFD-fed mice improved insulin sensitivity in both glucose tolerance and glycemic clamp tests. The insulin sensitivity observed was characterized by improved glucose disposal with dramatically decreased insulin secretion. It is noteworthy that these results mimic those obtained in similar tests of HFD-fed GhrR KO mice. HFD-fed mice treated for 56 days with antagonist experienced a transient decrease in food intake but a sustained body weight decrease resulting from decreased white adipose, but not lean tissue. They also had improved glucose disposal and a striking reduction in the amount of insulin needed to achieve this. These mice had reduced hepatic steatosis, improved liver function, and no evidence of systemic toxicity relative to controls. Furthermore, GhrR KO mice placed on low- or high-fat diets had lifespans similar to the wild type, emphasizing the long-term safety of ghrelin receptor blockade. We have therefore demonstrated that chronic pharmacologic blockade of the GhrR is an effective and safe strategy for treating metabolic syndrome.
    Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 07/2011; 339(1):115-24. · 3.89 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We and others have demonstrated previously that ghrelin receptor (GhrR) knock out (KO) mice fed a high fat diet (HFD) have increased insulin sensitivity and metabolic flexibility relative to WT littermates. A striking feature of the HFD-fed GhrR KO mouse is the dramatic decrease in hepatic steatosis. To characterize further the underlying mechanisms of glucose homeostasis in GhrR KO mice, we conducted both hyperglycemic (HG) and hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic (HI-E) clamps. Additionally, we investigated tissue glucose uptake and specifically examined liver insulin sensitivity. Consistent with glucose tolerance-test data, in HG clamp experiments, GhrR KO mice showed a reduction in glucose-stimulated insulin release relative to WT littermates. Nevertheless, a robust 1st phase insulin secretion was still achieved, indicating that a healthy ╬▓-cell response is maintained. Additionally, GhrR KO mice demonstrated both a significantly increased glucose infusion rate and significantly reduced insulin requirement for maintenance of the HG clamp, consistent with their relative insulin sensitivity. In HI-E clamps, both LFD-fed and HFD-fed GhrR KO mice showed higher peripheral insulin sensitivity relative to WT littermates as indicated by a significant increase in insulin-stimulated glucose disposal (Rd), and decreased hepatic glucose production (HGP). HFD-fed GhrR KO mice showed a marked increase in peripheral tissue glucose uptake in a variety of tissues, including skeletal muscle, brown adipose tissue and white adipose tissue. GhrR KO mice fed a HFD also showed a modest, but significant decrease in conversion of pyruvate to glucose, as would be anticipated if these mice displayed increased liver insulin sensitivity. Additionally, the levels of UCP2 and UCP1 were reduced in the liver and BAT, respectively, in GhrR KO mice relative to WT mice. These results indicate that improved glucose homeostasis of GhrR KO mice is characterized by robust improvements of glucose disposal in both normal and metabolically challenged states, relative to WT controls. GhrR KO mice have an intact 1st phase insulin response but require significantly less insulin for glucose disposal. Our experiments reveal that the insulin sensitivity of GhrR KO mice is due to both BW independent and dependent factors. We also provide several lines of evidence that a key feature of the GhrR KO mouse is maintenance of hepatic insulin sensitivity during metabolic challenge.
    BMC Physiology 01/2011; 11:1.
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    ABSTRACT: The orexigenic peptide ghrelin has been shown to have prokinetic activity in the gastrointestinal (GI) system of several species, including humans. In this series of experiments, we have evaluated the prokinetic activity of novel, small-molecule ghrelin receptor (GhrR) agonists after parenteral and peroral dosing in mice and rats. Gastric emptying, small intestinal transport, and fecal output were determined after intraperitoneal and intracerebroventricular dosing of GhrR agonists, using ghrelin as a positive control. These same parameters were evaluated after oral gavage dosing of the synthetic agonists. Regardless of dose route, GhrR agonist treatment increased gastric emptying, small intestinal transit, and fecal output. However, fecal output was only increased by GhrR agonist treatment if mice were able to feed during the stimulatory period. Thus, GhrR agonists can stimulate upper GI motility, and the orexigenic action of the compounds can indirectly contribute to prokinetic activity along the entire GI tract. The orexigenic and prokinetic effects of either ghrelin or small-molecule GhrR agonists were selective for the GhrR because they were absent when evaluated in GhrR knockout mice. We next evaluated the efficacy of the synthetic GhrR agonists dosed in a model of opiate-induced bowel dysfunction induced by a single injection of morphine. Oral dosing of a GhrR agonist normalized GI motility in opiate-induced dysmotility. These data demonstrate the potential utility of GhrR agonists for treating gastrointestinal hypomotility disorders.
    Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 03/2009; 329(3):1178-86. · 3.89 Impact Factor