Orexin and its receptors (OxR1 and OxR2) play a significant role in arousal and sleep regulation. Using developing piglets, we aimed to determine the effects of nicotine and Intermittent Hypercapnic Hypoxia (IHH), alone or in combination, on orexin receptor expression in the hypothalamus. Four piglet groups were studied: control (n=14), nicotine (n=14), IHH (n=10) and nic+IHH (n=14). Applying immunohistochemistry for OxR1 and OxR2 expression, eight nuclei/areas of the hypothalamus: dorsal medial nucleus (DMN), arcuate nucleus (ARC), perifornical area (PFA), paraventricular nucleus (PVN), lateral hypothalamic area (LHA), ventral medial nucleus (VMN), supraoptic nucleus, retrochiasmatic part (SONr) and tuberal mammillary nucleus (TMN), were studied. Compared to controls, OxR1 and OxR2 were increased due to exposures, however this was region dependent. Nicotine increased OxR1 in the DMN (P<0.001) and SONr (P=0.036), and OxR2 in the DMN (P<0.001), VMN (P=0.014) and the TMN (P=0.026). IHH increased OxR1 in the DMN, PVN, VMN and SONr (P<0.01 for all), and OxR2 in DMN (P<0.001), PFA (P=0.001), PVN (P=0.004), VMN (P=0.041) and the TMN (P<0.001). The nic+IHH exposure increased OxR1 expression in all nuclei (TMN excluded) however, the changes were not significantly different from IHH alone. For OxR2, the increased expression after nic+IHH was significant compared to IHH in the DMN, ARC and SONr. These results show that nicotine increases orexin receptor expression in a region dependent manner. IHH induced increases were specific to arousal and stress related regions and nic+IHH results suggest that for OxR1, nicotine has no additive effect whereas for OxR2 it does, and is region dependent.
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