Orexins in the brain-gut axis

Endocr Rev. 2002 Feb;23(1):1-15. doi: 10.1210/edrv.23.1.0454.


Orexins (hypocretins) are a novel pair of neuropeptides implicated in the regulation of energy balances and arousal. Previous reports have indicated that orexins are produced only in the lateral hypothalamic area, although orexin-containing nerve fibers were observed throughout the neuroaxis. Recent evidence shows that orexins and functional orexin receptors are found in the periphery. Vagal and spinal primary afferent neurons, enteric neurons, and endocrine cells in both the gut and pancreas display orexin- and orexin receptor-like immunoreactivity. Orexins excite secretomotor neurons in the guinea pig gut and modulate gastric and intestinal motility and secretion. In addition, orexins modulate hormone release from pancreatic endocrine cells. Moreover, fasting up-regulates the phosphorylated form of cAMP response element binding protein in orexin-immunoreactive enteric neurons, indicating a functional response to food status in these cells. The purpose of this article is to summarize evidence for the existence of a brain-gut network of orexin-containing cells that appears to play a role in the acute regulation of energy homeostasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Carrier Proteins / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Humans
  • Intestines / physiology*
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins*
  • Neuropeptides / physiology*
  • Orexins
  • Pancreas / physiology


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Orexins