Diurnal fluctuation in the number of hypocretin/orexin and histamine producing: Implication for understanding and treating neuronal loss

PLoS One. 2017 Jun 1;12(6):e0178573. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178573. eCollection 2017.


The loss of specific neuronal phenotypes, as determined by immunohistochemistry, has become a powerful tool for identifying the nature and cause of neurological diseases. Here we show that the number of neurons identified and quantified using this method misses a substantial percentage of extant neurons in a phenotype specific manner. In mice, 24% more hypocretin/orexin (Hcrt) neurons are seen in the night compared to the day, and an additional 17% are seen after inhibiting microtubule polymerization with colchicine. We see no such difference between the number of MCH (melanin concentrating hormone) neurons in dark, light or colchicine conditions, despite MCH and Hcrt both being hypothalamic peptide transmitters. Although the size of Hcrt neurons did not differ between light and dark, the size of MCH neurons was increased by 15% in the light phase. The number of neurons containing histidine decarboxylase (HDC), the histamine synthesizing enzyme, was 34% greater in the dark than in the light, but, like Hcrt, cell size did not differ. We did not find a significant difference in the number or the size of neurons expressing choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), the acetylcholine synthesizing enzyme, in the horizontal diagonal band (HBD) during the dark and light conditions. As expected, colchicine treatment did not increase the number of these neurons. Understanding the function and dynamics of transmitter production within "non-visible" phenotypically defined cells has fundamental implications for our understanding of brain plasticity.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Colchicine / administration & dosage
  • Histamine / biosynthesis*
  • Histidine Decarboxylase / metabolism
  • Hypothalamic Hormones / metabolism
  • Male
  • Melanins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / enzymology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Orexins / biosynthesis*
  • Pituitary Hormones / metabolism


  • Hypothalamic Hormones
  • Melanins
  • Orexins
  • Pituitary Hormones
  • melanin-concentrating hormone
  • Histamine
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase
  • Histidine Decarboxylase
  • Colchicine