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J Neurosci. 2009 Nov 18;29(46):14423-38. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2604-09.2009.

Orexin/hypocretin and histamine: distinct roles in the control of wakefulness demonstrated using knock-out mouse models.

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  • 1Inserm-U628, Integrated Physiology of Brain Arousal Systems, IFR19, 69373 Lyon, France.


To determine the respective role played by orexin/hypocretin and histamine (HA) neurons in maintaining wakefulness (W), we characterized the behavioral and sleep-wake phenotypes of orexin (Ox) knock-out (-/-) mice and compared them with those of histidine-decarboxylase (HDC, HA-synthesizing enzyme)-/- mice. While both mouse strains displayed sleep fragmentation and increased paradoxical sleep (PS), they presented a number of marked differences: (1) the PS increase in HDC(-/-) mice was seen during lightness, whereas that in Ox(-/-) mice occurred during darkness; (2) contrary to HDC(-/-), Ox(-/-) mice had no W deficiency around lights-off, nor an abnormal EEG and responded to a new environment with increased W; (3) only Ox(-/-), but not HDC(-/-) mice, displayed narcolepsy and deficient W when faced with motor challenge. Thus, when placed on a wheel, wild-type (WT), but not littermate Ox(-/-) mice, voluntarily spent their time in turning it and as a result, remained highly awake; this was accompanied by dense c-fos expression in many areas of their brains, including Ox neurons in the dorsolateral hypothalamus. The W and motor deficiency of Ox(-/-) mice was due to the absence of Ox because intraventricular dosing of orexin-A restored their W amount and motor performance whereas SB-334867 (Ox1-receptor antagonist, i.p.) impaired W and locomotion of WT mice during the test. These data indicate that Ox, but not HA, promotes W through enhanced locomotion and suggest that HA and Ox neurons exert a distinct, but complementary and synergistic control of W: the neuropeptide being more involved in its behavioral aspects, whereas the amine is mainly responsible for its qualitative cognitive aspects and cortical EEG activation.

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