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J Comp Neurol. 2006 Sep 1;498(1):58-67.

P2X2R purinergic receptor subunit mRNA and protein are expressed by all hypothalamic hypocretin/orexin neurons.

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I.R.C.C.S. Santa Lucia Foundation, I-00179 Rome, Italy.


Neurophysiologic data suggest that orexin neurons are directly excited by ATP through purinergic receptors (P2XR). Anatomical studies, though reporting P2XR in the hypothalamus, did not describe it in the perifornical hypothalamic area, where orexinergic neurons are located. Here we report the presence of the P2X(2)R subunit in the rat perifornical hypothalamus and demonstrate that hypothalamic orexin neurons express the P2X(2)R. Double immunohistochemistry showed that virtually all orexin-immunoreactive neurons are also P2X(2)R immunoreactive, whereas 80% of P2X(2)R-immunoreactive neurons are also orexin positive. Triple-labeling experiments, combining fluorescence in situ hybridization for P2X(2)R mRNA and P2X(2)R/orexin double immunofluorescence, confirmed these findings. In addition, in situ hybridization demonstrated that P2X(2)R mRNA is localized in cellular processes of orexinergic neurons. The present data support neurophysiologic findings on ATP modulation of orexinergic function and provide direct evidence that the entire population of orexin neurons expresses a P2XR subtype, namely, P2X(2)R. Thus, purinergic transmission might intervene in modulating key functions known to be controlled by the orexinergic system, such as feeding behavior and arousal.

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