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Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2017;33:157-196. doi: 10.1007/7854_2016_46.

Orexin and Central Modulation of Cardiovascular and Respiratory Function.

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School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, 2052, Australia.
Department of Physiology, Graduate School of Medical & Dental Sciences, Kagoshima University, Kagoshima, Japan.


Orexin makes an important contribution to the regulation of cardiorespiratory function. When injected centrally under anesthesia, orexin increases blood pressure, heart rate, sympathetic nerve activity, and the amplitude and frequency of respiration. This is consistent with the location of orexin neurons in the hypothalamus and the distribution of orexin terminals at all levels of the central autonomic and respiratory network. These cardiorespiratory responses are components of arousal and are necessary to allow the expression of motivated behaviors. Thus, orexin contributes to the cardiorespiratory response to acute stressors, especially those of a psychogenic nature. Consequently, upregulation of orexin signaling, whether it is spontaneous or environmentally induced, can increase blood pressure and lead to hypertension, as is the case for the spontaneously hypertensive rat and the hypertensive BPH/2J Schlager mouse. Blockade of orexin receptors will reduce blood pressure in these animals, which could be a new pharmacological approach for the treatment of some forms of hypertension. Orexin can also magnify the respiratory reflex to hypercapnia in order to maintain respiratory homeostasis, and this may be in part why it is upregulated during obstructive sleep apnea. In this pathological condition, blockade of orexin receptors would make the apnea worse. To summarize, orexin is an important modulator of cardiorespiratory function. Acting on orexin signaling may help in the treatment of some cardiovascular and respiratory disorders.


Blood pressure; Chemoreflex; Heart rate; Hypercapnia; Hypocretin; Obstructive sleep apnea; Ox1R; Ox2R; Psychological stress; Respiration; Rostral ventrolateral medulla; SHR; Schlager mouse; Sympathetic

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