Orexin-A and orexin-B are neuropeptides originally identified as endogenous ligands for two orphan G-protein–coupled receptors. Orexin neuropeptides (also known as hypocretins) are produced by a small group of neurons in the lateral hypothalamic and perifornical areas, a region classically implicated in the control of mammalian feeding behavior. Orexin neurons project throughout the central nervous system (CNS) to nuclei known to be important in the control of feeding, sleep-wakefulness, neuroendocrine homeostasis, and autonomic regulation. mRNA expression is upregulated by fasting and insulin-induced hypoglycemia. C-fos expression in orexin neurons, an indicator of neuronal activation, is positively correlated with wakefulness and negatively correlated with rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep states. Intracerebroventricular administration of orexins has been shown to significantly increase food consumption, wakefulness, and locomotor activity in rodent models. Conversely, an orexin receptor antagonist inhibits food consumption. Targeted disruption of the gene in mice produces a syndrome remarkably similar to human and canine narcolepsy, a sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, cataplexy, and other pathological manifestations of the intrusion of REM sleep-related features into wakefulness. Furthermore, knockout mice are hypophagic compared with weight and age-matched littermates, suggesting a role in modulating energy metabolism. These findings suggest that the orexin neuropeptide system plays a significant role in feeding and sleep-wakefulness regulation, possibly by coordinating the complex behavioral and physiologic responses of these complementary homeostatic functions.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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