Orexins and appetite regulation

Neuropeptides. 2002 Oct;36(5):303-25. doi: 10.1016/s0143-4179(02)00085-9.


Initial research on the functional significance of two novel hypothalamic neuropeptides, orexin-A and orexin-B, suggested an important role in appetite regulation. Since then, however, these peptides have also been shown to influence a wide range of other physiological and behavioural processes. In this paper, we review the now quite extensive literature on orexins and appetite control, and consider their additional effects within this context. Although the evidence for orexin (particularly orexin-A and the orexin-1 receptor) involvement in many aspects of ingestive physiology and behaviour is incontrovertible, central administration of orexins is also associated with increased EEG arousal and wakefulness, locomotor activity and grooming, sympathetic and HPA activity, and pain thresholds. Since the orexin system is selectively activated by signals indicating severe nutritional depletion, it would be highly adaptive for a hungry animal not only to seek sustenance but also to remain fully alert to dangers in the environment. Crucial evidence indicates that orexin-A increases food intake by delaying the onset of a behaviourally normal satiety sequence. In contrast, a selective orexin-1 receptor antagonist (SB-334867) suppresses food intake and advances the onset of a normal satiety sequence. These data suggest that orexin-1 receptors mediate the episodic signalling of satiety and appear to bridge the transition from eating to resting in the rats' feeding-sleep cycle. The argument is developed that the diverse physiological and behavioural effects of orexins can best be understood in terms of an integrated set of reactions which function to rectify nutritional status without compromising personal survival. Indeed, many of the non-ingestive effects of orexin administration are identical to the cluster of active defences mediated via the lateral and dorsolateral columns of the midbrain periaqueductal gray matter, i.e., somatomotor activation, vigilance, tachycardia, hypertension and non-opioid analgesia. In our view, therefore, the LH orexin system is very well placed to orchestrate the diverse subsystems involved in foraging under potentially dangerous circumstances, i.e., finding and ingesting food without oneself becoming a meal for someone else.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite Regulation / drug effects
  • Appetite Regulation / physiology*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Body Temperature / drug effects
  • Carrier Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Carrier Proteins / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography / drug effects
  • Feeding Behavior / drug effects
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Grooming / drug effects
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Hypothalamus / drug effects
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins*
  • Locomotion / drug effects
  • Neuropeptides / administration & dosage
  • Neuropeptides / physiology*
  • Orexin Receptors
  • Orexins
  • Pain
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide / physiology*
  • Satiation / drug effects
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Wakefulness / drug effects


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Insulin
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Orexin Receptors
  • Orexins
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide
  • Serotonin