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Hypocretin/orexin in fish physiology with emphasis on zebrafish


P. Panula, Neuroscience Center, Institute of Biomedicine/Anatomy, University of Helsinki, PB 63, FIN-00014 Helsinki, Finland.


One hypocretin/orexin (hcrt) gene has been identified in several fish species. The first pufferfish gene was identified in 2002 and the zebrafish gene was cloned in 2004. Its structure is very similar to that of mammals, and it encodes for two active peptides with C-termini similar to those of mammals. The gene is expressed in the brain in only one hypothalamic nucleus, which sends projections to the telencephalon, diencephalon, mesencephalon and rhombencephalon. The terminal fibres are found in close contact with many aminergic cell groups, including those of raphe serotonergic, locus coeruleus noradrenergic, several dopaminergic cell groups and the sole histaminergic hypothalamic cluster. One receptor corresponding to mammalian hcrt 2 receptor has been identified in fish. Overexpression of hcrt in zebrafish has been reported to consolidate wakefulness and inhibit rest. On the other hand, fish lacking the hcrt receptor show short and fragmented sleep instead of sleepiness and cataplexy. Food deprivation increases hcrt mRNA expression in zebrafish brain, and intracerebroventricular hcrt peptides stimulate food consumption and feeding behaviour in goldfish. Hcrt peptides thus have important roles in fish physiology. Many genetic and functional methods available render fish, especially zebrafish, a suitable organism to study new aspects of hcrt physiology in vertebrates.