Scientific reports

Optogenetic activation of serotonergic terminals facilitates GABAergic inhibitory input to orexin/hypocretin neurons.

PMID 27824065


Orexin/hypocretin neurons play a crucial role in the regulation of sleep/wakefulness, primarily in the maintenance of wakefulness. These neurons innervate wide areas of the brain and receive diverse synaptic inputs including those from serotonergic (5-HT) neurons in the raphe nucleus. Previously we showed that pharmacological application of 5-HT directly inhibited orexin neurons via 5-HT1A receptors. However, it was still unclear how 5-HT neurons regulated orexin neurons since 5-HT neurons contain not only 5-HT but also other neurotransmitters. To reveal this, we generated new triple transgenic mice in which orexin neurons express enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) and 5-HT neurons express channelrhodopsin2 (ChR2). Immunohistochemical studies show that nerve endings of ChR2-expressing 5-HT neurons are in close apposition to EGFP-expressing orexin neurons in the lateral hypothalamic area. Using these mice, we could optogenetically activate 5-HT nerve terminals and record postsynaptic effects from orexin neurons. Activation of nerve terminals of 5-HT neurons directly inhibited orexin neurons via the 5HT1A receptor, and also indirectly inhibited orexin neurons by facilitating GABAergic inhibitory inputs without affecting glutamatergic inputs. Increased GABAergic inhibitory inputs in orexin neurons were confirmed by the pharmacological application of 5-HT. These results suggest that orexin neurons are inhibited by 5-HT neurons, primarily via 5-HT, in both direct and indirect manners.