Modulation of behavior by the histaminergic system: lessons from H(1)R-and H(2)R-deficient mice

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2014 May;42:252-66. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.03.009. Epub 2014 Mar 21.


Besides acting in the immune system, histamine is also a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. The H1R causes central side effects, e.g. of first generation antihistamines, antidepressants or antipsychotics and represents the component of the central histaminergic system most extensively studied in behavior experiments with knock-out mice. Central effects of H2R are similar, but only few behavioral results from knockout models are available. We summarize the behavior phenotype of H1R- and H2R-deficient mice, revealing histaminergic modulation of behaviors like locomotor activity, cognition, emotional states, arousal, sleep and wakefulness, circadian rhythm, pain perception, food intake and energy consumption, respiration and susceptibility to seizures. Knock-out models demonstrate several central effects of H1R and H2R that are not clinically and therapeutically exploited to date. We critically discuss problems and pitfalls of both the knock-out mouse technique and the pharmacological approach with receptor-selective ligands. The behavioral characterization of Hrh1(-/-)- and Hrh2(-/-)-mice is crucial, because many pharmacological agents lack the required selectivity to unequivocally address the functions of a single histamine receptor subtype.

Keywords: Behavior; Brain; Circadian rhythm; Food intake; Histamine receptor; Knockout mouse; Learning; Memory; Pain; Respiration; Seizures; Sleep.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Receptors, Histamine H1 / deficiency*
  • Receptors, Histamine H1 / genetics
  • Receptors, Histamine H1 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Histamine H2 / deficiency*
  • Receptors, Histamine H2 / genetics
  • Receptors, Histamine H2 / metabolism


  • Receptors, Histamine H1
  • Receptors, Histamine H2