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Eur J Endocrinol. 2004 May;150(5):737-42.

Orexin A and B levels in the hypothalamus of female rats: the effects of the estrous cycle and age.

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Institute of Biomedicine, Department of Physiology, Biomedicum Helsinki, PO Box 63, 00014 University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.



Orexins have been implicated in the regulation of several physiological functions including reproduction, energy balance and vigilance state. For successful reproduction, the precisely timed hormonal secretions of the estrous cycle must be combined with appropriate nutritional and vigilance states. The steroid- and nutritional state-dependent modulation of LH release by orexins, as well as an increase of vigilance, suggest that orexins may co-ordinate these functions in the course of the estrous cycle.


We studied the brain tissue levels of orexins in the course of the estrous cycle in young and middle-aged rats. Young cycling rats (3 months old) and irregularly/non-cycling (7-9 months old) female rats were inspected for vaginal smears and serum hormone levels.


Tissue concentrations of orexin A and B were measured in the hypothalamus and lateral hypothalamus on different days of the estrous cycle.


Orexin A concentration in the hypothalamus of young cycling rats was higher on the day of proestrus 5-6 h after the lights were switched on than on the other days of the estrous cycle at the same circadian time. Orexin B concentration was higher on both the day of proestrus and the day of estrus as compared with the days of diestrus. The hypothalamic concentrations of both orexin A and B in the non-cycling middle-aged rats were lower than those in cycling rats on the days of proestrus and estrus.


We have concluded that the high hypothalamic concentration of orexins on the day of proestrus may contribute to the LH and prolactin surges. High orexin A levels may also contribute to the decreased amount of sleep on the day of proestrus.

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