Feeding-elicited cataplexy in orexin knockout mice

Neuroscience. 2009 Jul 21;161(4):970-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.04.007. Epub 2009 Apr 8.


Mice lacking orexin/hypocretin signaling have sudden episodes of atonia and paralysis during active wakefulness. These events strongly resemble cataplexy, episodes of sudden muscle weakness triggered by strong positive emotions in people with narcolepsy, but it remains unknown whether murine cataplexy is triggered by positive emotions. To determine whether positive emotions elicit murine cataplexy, we placed orexin knockout (KO) mice on a scheduled feeding protocol with regular or highly palatable food. Baseline sleep/wake behavior was recorded with ad libitum regular chow. Mice were then placed on a scheduled feeding protocol in which they received 60% of their normal amount of chow 3 h after dark onset for the next 10 days. Wild-type and KO mice rapidly entrained to scheduled feeding with regular chow, with more wake and locomotor activity prior to the feeding time. On day 10 of scheduled feeding, orexin KO mice had slightly more cataplexy during the food-anticipation period and more cataplexy in the second half of the dark period, when they may have been foraging for residual food. To test whether more palatable food increases cataplexy, mice were then switched to scheduled feeding with an isocaloric amount of Froot Loops, a food often used as a reward in behavioral studies. With this highly palatable food, orexin KO mice had much more cataplexy during the food-anticipation period and throughout the dark period. The increase in cataplexy with scheduled feeding, especially with highly palatable food, suggests that positive emotions may trigger cataplexy in mice, just as in people with narcolepsy. Establishing this connection helps validate orexin KO mice as an excellent model of human narcolepsy and provides an opportunity to better understand the mechanisms that trigger cataplexy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Cataplexy / genetics*
  • Cataplexy / psychology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Electromyography
  • Emotions
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Food*
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics*
  • Lighting
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Motor Activity / genetics
  • Neuropeptides / genetics*
  • Orexins
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Sleep / genetics
  • Time Factors
  • Wakefulness / genetics


  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Orexins