Orexin Peptides Prevent Cataplexy and Improve Wakefulness in an Orexin Neuron-Ablated Model of Narcolepsy in Mice

Tomas Thorne

Last Updated: February 2, 2023

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Narcolepsy-cataplexy is a neurological disorder associated with the inability to maintain wakefulness and abnormal intrusions of rapid eye movement sleep-related phenomena into wakefulness such as cataplexy. The vast majority of narcoleptic-cataplectic individuals have low or undetectable levels of orexin (hypocretin) neuropeptides in the cerebrospinal fluid, likely due to specific loss of the hypothalamic orexin-producing neurons. Currently available treatments for narcolepsy are only palliative, symptom-oriented pharmacotherapies. Here, we demonstrate rescue of the narcolepsy-cataplexy phenotype of orexin neuron-ablated mice by genetic and pharmacological means. Ectopic expression of a prepro-orexin transgene in the brain completely prevented cataplectic arrests and other abnormalities of rapid eye movement sleep in the absence of endogenous orexin neurons. Central administration of orexin-A acutely suppressed cataplectic behavioral arrests and increased wakefulness for 3 h. These results indicate that orexin neuron-ablated mice retain the ability to respond to orexin neuropeptides and that a temporally regulated and spatially targeted secretion of orexins is not necessary to prevent narcoleptic symptoms. Orexin receptor agonists would be of potential value for treating human narcolepsy.


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