• AMPA;
  • dopamine;
  • motivation;
  • NMDA;
  • orexin B;
  • VTA


The orexins (hypocretins) play a crucial role in arousal, feeding and reward. Highly relevant to these functions, orexin-containing neurons from the lateral hypothalamus project densely to the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which is the origin of dopamine projections implicated in motivation and reward. Orexin A/hypocretin 1 (oxA/hcrt-1) can enable long-term changes associated with drugs of abuse; however, the effects of orexin B/hypocretin 2 (oxB/hcrt-2) on excitatory synaptic transmission in the VTA are unknown. We used whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology in rat horizontal midbrain slices to examine the effects of oxB/hcrt-2 on excitatory synaptic transmission. We observed that oxB/hcrt-2 has distinct effects from oxA/hcrt-1 in the VTA. oxB/Hcrt-2 (100 nm) increased presynaptic glutamate release in addition to a postsynaptic potentiation of NMDA receptors (NMDARs). The oxB/hcrt-2-mediated postsynaptic potentiation of NMDARs was mediated via activation of orexin/hypocretin 2 (OX2/Hcrt-2) receptors and protein kinase C (PKC). Furthermore, the increase in transmitter release probability was also PKC-dependent, but not through activation of orexin/hypocretin 1 (OX1/Hcrt-1) or OX2/Hcrt-2 receptors. Finally, oxB/hcrt-2 or the selective OX2/Hcrt-2 receptor agonist ala11-d-leu15-orexin B, significantly reduced spike-timing-induced long-term potentiation. Taken together, these results support a dual role for oxB/hcrt-2 in mediating enhanced glutamatergic transmission in the VTA, and suggest that oxA/hcrt-1 and oxB/hcrt-2 exert different functional roles in modulating the enhancement of the motivational components of arousal and feeding.