The role of bombesin and bombesin-related peptides in the short-term control of food intake

Document Type



Brain and Mind Institute


In 1970, Erspamer et al.1,14isolated and characterized the tetradecapeptide bombesin (BN) from the skin of amphibian frog Bombina bombina. Subsequently, several BN-like peptides have been identified in mammals, consisting of various forms of gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) and/or neuromedin B (NMB), together with their distinct receptor subtypes. It has been proposed that BN-related peptides may be released from the gastrointestinal (GI)-tract in response to ingested food, and that they bridge the gut and brain (through neurocrine means) to inhibit further food intake. Conversely, the suppression of release of BN-like peptides at relevant brain nuclei may signal the initiation of a feeding episode. The present review will describe recent pharmacological, molecular, behavioral and physiological experiments, supporting the contention that endogenous BN-related peptides do indeed influence ingestive behaviors. Particular attention is focused on the relationship between these peptides in the peripheral compartment and their impact on central circuits using GRP and/or NMB as transmitters. In addition, however, we will point out various caveats and conundrums that preclude unequivocal conclusions about the precise role(s) of these peptides and their mechanism(s) of action. We conclude that BN-related peptides play an important role in the control of food intake, and may contribute to ingestive disruptions associated with anorexia (anorexia nervosa, AIDS and cancer anorexia), bulimia, obesity and depression. Hence, pharmacological targeting of these systems may be of therapeutic value.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.