• histamine;
  • H3-receptor ligands;
  • BF2.649;
  • pitolisant;
  • excessive daytime sleepiness;
  • narcolepsy;
  • obstructive sleep apnoea

The third histamine receptor was discovered in 1983 by a traditional pharmacological approach, consisting of assessing the inhibitory effect of histamine on its own release from depolarized rat brain slices. The same in vitro test was used to design, in 1987, the first highly selective and potent H3-autoreceptor ligands, the antagonist thioperamide and the agonist (R)alphamethylhistamine which enhances and inhibits, respectively, the activity of histaminergic neurons in brain. The use of these research tools was instrumental in establishing the main functions of cerebral histaminergic neurons, namely their role in maintenance of wakefulness, attention, learning and other cognitive processes. In 1990, the cloning of the gene of the H3-receptor, a member of the superfamily of heptahelical receptors coupled to G proteins, paved the way to the demonstration of the high constitutive activity of the receptor, including its native form, and its participation in the tonic control of histamine release; it also facilitated the development of H3-receptor inverse agonist programs in many drug companies. Pitolisant (BF2.649, 1-{3-[3-(4-chlorophenyl)propoxy]propyl}piperidine, hydrochloride) is the first inverse agonist to be introduced in the clinics. Its wake-promotion activity was evidenced in excessive diurnal sleepiness of patients with narcolepsy, Parkinson's disease or Obstructive Sleep Apnea/Hypopnea, in which this activity is characterized by a mean decrease of the Epworth Sleepiness Scale by about five units. The procognitive activity of this novel class of drugs may also find therapeutic applications in dementias, schizophrenia or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.


This review is dedicated to the memory of Sir James Black who recently passed away and whose achievements in classical pharmacology and drug design have been examples to the author throughout his career. BJP published an issue in 2010 on Analytical Receptor Pharmacology in Drug Discovery, which was dedicated to the memory of Sir James Black. To view this issue visit In 2009 BJP published a Histamine themed issue. To view this issue visit