BACKGROUND. The regulation of intestinal growth and development in human neonates is incompletely understood, which hinders the provision of nutrients enterally. The “hindgut” hormones glucagon-like peptides 1 and 2 have been shown to play an important role in the regulation of nutrient assimilation, intestinal growth, and function.

OBJECTIVE. Our goal was to investigate the production of glucagon-like peptides 1 and 2 in premature human infants and examine the effects of prematurity and feeding on hormone release.

PATIENTS AND METHODS. With informed consent, premature infants who were admitted to a tertiary neonatal intensive care nursery (gestational age: 28–32 weeks) were monitored with weekly determinations of postprandial glucagon-like peptide 1 and 2 levels. Comparison studies with groups of normal infants and adults were performed. Hormone levels were obtained by using specific radioimmunoassay for glucagon-like peptide 1 (1–36) and glucagon-like peptide 2 (1–33), modified for small sample volumes; accurate monitoring of enteral intake was performed at all of the sampling time points.

RESULTS. Forty-five infants with a mean gestational age of 29.6 ± 1.9 weeks were studied; fasting levels of both glucagon-like peptides 1 and 2 were elevated. There was no correlation between gestational age and glucagon-like peptide 2 output. However, both glucagon-like peptide 1 and 2 levels were correlated with the caloric value of feeds.

CONCLUSIONS. The premature human neonate has significantly higher fasting levels of glucagon-like peptides 1 and 2 compared with adults; feeding increases these levels further. These findings suggest that the proglucagon-derived peptides may have a role in normal intestinal development and nutrient handling.

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