Orexin-A and orexin-B are hypothalamic neuropeptides that play critical roles in the maintenance of wakefulness. Intracerebroventricular (ICV) administration of orexin-A has been shown to promote wakefulness and suppress both rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM (NREM) sleep through the orexin receptor-1 (OX1R) and orexin receptor-2 (OX2R). Here, we elucidated the differential roles of orexin receptors in the regulation of sleep and wakefulness by comparing the effects of ICV orexin-A administration in wild-type, OX1R, and OX2R mice. The effects of orexin-A on wakefulness and NREM sleep were significantly attenuated in both knock-out mice as compared with wild-type mice, with substantially larger attenuation in OX2R mice than in OX1R mice. These results suggest that although the OX2R-mediated pathway has a pivotal role in the promotion of wakefulness, OX1R also plays additional roles in promoting arousal. In contrast, suppression of REM sleep by orexin-A administration was slightly and similarly attenuated in both OX1R and OX2R mice, suggesting a comparable contribution of the two receptors to REM sleep suppression. Histological studies demonstrated differential distributions of each receptor subtype in distinct neuronal populations with specific neurotransmitter identities in brainstem cholinergic/monoaminergic neurons. In the laterodorsal tegmental and pedunculopontine tegmental nuclei especially, cholinergic neurons exclusively expressed OX1R mRNA, but OX2R mRNA was expressed mainly in GABAergic putative interneurons. Thus, each orexin receptor subtype plays differential roles in gating NREM and REM sleep through distinct neuronal pathways.
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