Depressive behavior and activation of the orexin/hypocretin system

David H. Arendt, Patrick J. Ronan, Kevin D. Oliver, Leah B. Callahan, Tangi R. Summers, Cliff H. Summers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


The orexin/hypocretin peptide signaling system plays a neuromodulatory role in motivation and stress; two critical components of depression. Although work has been done to identify links between orexin and depression, few specific neuroanatomical associations have been made. These studies have not investigated the relationship between orexin and orexin receptor expression in specific brain regions associated with this disorder. To address this, we examined immobility during the forced swim test (FST) in mice, a commonly used measure of depressive behavior. We analyzed the variation in FST immobility with the distribution of orexin and its receptor mRNA. We found that animals that exhibited more robust depressive behavior had greater or lesser orexin system expression that depended on the limbic brain region analyzed. In the hippocampus there was a negative correlation between orexin expression and FST immobility. Animals that displayed relatively more depressive behavior had lower hippocampal expression of Orexin A (OrxA). In the amygdala, there was a curvilinear relationship between OrxA and FST performance. In addition there was a positive correlation with amygdalar Type I orexin receptor (Orx1) mRNA and depressive behavior. Despite the differences in limbic orexin expression, there was no correlation between immobility and hypothalamic orexin neuron activation as measured by c-Fos. Overall, more severe depressive behavior was associated with reduced hippocampal orexin expression, contrasted with increased orexin plus Orx1 receptor mRNA expression in the amygdala. This divergent pattern between the hippocampus and amygdala mirrors a neurobiological theme seen in depression resulting from reduced hippocampal, but increased amygdalar, size and function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-94
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Forced swim test
  • Hypocretin
  • Orexin
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Depressive behavior and activation of the orexin/hypocretin system'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this