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Drug News Perspect. 2005 May;18(4):250-5.

The corticotropin-releasing factor-hypocretin connection: implications in stress response and addiction.

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Department of Molecular Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


The hypothalamic neuropeptides hypocretins (orexins) play a crucial role in the stability of arousal and alertness. Recent data have raised the hypothesis that hypocretin neurons are also part of the circuitries that mediate the hypothalamic stress response. In particular, we have recently demonstrated that corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF)-immunoreactive terminals make direct synaptic contacts with hypocretin-expressing neurons and that numerous hypocretinergic neurons express the CRF-R1/2 receptors. Furthermore, CRF excites hypocretinergic cells ex vivo through CRF-R1 receptors. Activation of hypocretinergic neurons in response to acute stress is severely impaired in CRF-R1 knockout mice. Moreover, the stress response is impaired in hypocretin-deficient mice. We propose that upon stressor stimuli, CRF stimulates the release of hypocretins, and this circuit contributes to activation and maintenance of arousal associated with the stress response and addiction.

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