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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2002 Aug 9;296(1):129-33.

Modulation of hypothalamic hypocretin/orexin mRNA expression by glucocorticoids.

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Metabolic Diseases Physiology and Pharmacology, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, 75 Sidney Street, MA 02139, Cambridge, USA.


The orexins are peptides which were recently isolated from the rat hypothlamus. They play a role in energy homeostasis and regulation of feeding as well as in other functions such as the sleep-wake cycle. The involvement of glucocorticoids in stress processes as well as in body weight regulation is well known. In the present paper, we investigated the role of glucocorticoids on hypocretin (Hcrt)/orexin (OX) pathway in Sprague-Dawley rats. We confirmed by in situ hybridization that prepro-Hcrt/OX mRNA expression is restricted to the lateral hypothalamus area with extension to the perifornical nucleus and the posterior hypothalamic area. Lateral hypothalamic prepro-Hcrt/OX mRNA expression was decreased by 50% after adrenalectomy (99.8+/-5.0 vs 49.2+/-4.4 nCi/g, p<0.01). Peripheral glucocorticoid treatment (dexamethasone) restored its expression to normal levels (105.4+/-6.1 nCi/g). The present data provide direct evidence that Hcrt/OX expression in the lateral hypothalamus is modulated by the glucocorticoids status. As the Hcrt/Ox system is closely interactive with the corticotropin-releasing hormone and neuropeptide Y systems, we propose that hypocretin/orexins peptides constitute a very sensitive key relay for mediating both stress and feeding behavior.

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