Organization of hypocretin/orexin efferents to locus coeruleus and basal forebrain arousal-related structures

J Comp Neurol. 2005 Jan 10;481(2):160-78. doi: 10.1002/cne.20369.


Hypocretin/orexin neurons give rise to an extensive projection system, portions of which innervate multiple regions associated with the regulation of behavioral state. These regions include the locus coeruleus, medial septal area, medial preoptic area, and substantia innominata. Evidence indicates that hypocretin modulates behavioral state via actions within each of these terminal fields. To understand better the circuitry underlying hypocretin-dependent modulation of behavioral state, the present study characterized the degree to which there exists: 1) lateralization of hypocretin efferents to basal forebrain and brainstem arousal-related regions, 2) topographic organization of basal forebrain- and brainstem-projecting hypocretin neurons, and 3) collateralization of individual hypocretin neurons to these arousal-related terminal fields. These studies utilized combined immunohistochemical identification of hypocretin neurons with single or double retrograde tracing from the locus coeruleus, medial preoptic area, medial septal area, and substantia innominata. Results indicate that approximately 80% of hypocretin efferents to basal forebrain regions project ipsilaterally, whereas projections to the locus coeruleus are more bilateral (65%). There was a slight preference for basal forebrain-projecting hypocretin neurons to be distributed within the medial half of the hypocretin cell group. In contrast, hypocretin neurons projecting to the locus coeruleus were located primarily within the dorsal half of the hypocretin cell group. Finally, a large proportion of hypocretin neurons appear to project simultaneously to at least two of the examined terminal fields. These latter observations suggest coordinated actions of hypocretin across multiple arousal-related regions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Cholera Toxin
  • Efferent Pathways / cytology
  • Efferent Pathways / metabolism*
  • Hypothalamic Area, Lateral / cytology
  • Hypothalamic Area, Lateral / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Locus Coeruleus / cytology
  • Locus Coeruleus / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism*
  • Orexins
  • Preoptic Area / cytology
  • Preoptic Area / metabolism
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism
  • Presynaptic Terminals / ultrastructure
  • Prosencephalon / cytology
  • Prosencephalon / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Septal Nuclei / cytology
  • Septal Nuclei / metabolism
  • Stilbamidines
  • Substantia Innominata / cytology
  • Substantia Innominata / metabolism
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinin-Horseradish Peroxidase Conjugate


  • 2-hydroxy-4,4'-diamidinostilbene, methanesulfonate salt
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Orexins
  • Stilbamidines
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinin-Horseradish Peroxidase Conjugate
  • Cholera Toxin