OBJECTIVE: To test whether ghrelin variants could play a role in modulating some aspects of the obese phenotype during childhood. DESIGN: We screened the ghrelin gene in 300 Italian obese children and adolescents (mean age 10.573.2 y; range 4–19 y) and 200 controls by using the single-strand conformation polymorphism and the restriction fragment length polymoprhism analysis. RESULTS: No mutations were detected with the exception of two previously described polymorphisms, Arg51Gln and Leu72Met. For both variations, allelic frequencies were similar between patients and controls. Interestingly, we showed that the Leu72Met polymorphism was associated with differences in the age at obesity onset. Patients with the Met72 allele became obese earlier than homozygous patients for the wild Leu72 allele. The logrank test comparing the plots of the complement of Kaplan–Meier estimates between the two groups of patients was statistically significant (Po0.0001). CONCLUSIONS: It is unlikely that ghrelin variations cause the obesity due to single-gene mutations. The Leu72Met polymorphism of the ghrelin gene seems to play a role in anticipating the onset of obesity among children suggesting, therefore, that ghrelin may be involved in the pathophysiology of human adiposity.
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