Differential orexin/hypocretin expression in addiction-prone and -resistant rats selectively bred for high (HiS) and low (LoS) saccharin intake

Nathan A. Holtz, Natalie E. Zlebnik, Marilyn E. Carroll

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9 Scopus citations


Rats that have been selectively bred for high (HiS) saccharin intake demonstrate elevated drug-seeking behavior in several phases of addiction compared to those bred for low (LoS) saccharin intake. HiS rats also consume greater amounts of highly palatable substances compared to LoS rats; however, little is known about the neurobiological substrates moderating the divergent behaviors found between the HiS and LoS lines. Orexins are neuropeptides that have been implicated in the conditioned cue aspects of drug abuse and overconsumption of palatable substances, and differential orexin activity in the HiS and LoS phenotypes may enhance our understanding of the close relationship between food and drug reward, and ultimately food and drug addiction. The lateral hypothalamus (LH) and perifornical area (PFA) are brain regions that have been implicated in regulating feeding behavior and addiction processes, and they contain orexinergic neurons that project broadly throughout the brain. Thus, we investigated orexin and c-Fos expression in the LH and PFA using immunohistochemistry in HiS and LoS rats following either control or cocaine (15. mg/kg) injections. Results indicated that HiS rats have higher orexin-positive cell counts compared to LoS rats in both the LH and PFA, regardless of cocaine (vs. saline) treatment. In contrast, neuronal activity indicated by c-Fos expression did not differ in either of these brain areas in HiS vs. LoS rats. These results suggest that the orexin system may be involved in aspects of genetically-mediated differences in vulnerability to compulsive, reward-driven behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-15
Number of pages4
JournalNeuroscience Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 26 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by NIDA/NIH grants R01 DA003240 , P20 DA024196 (Project 1), and K05 DA15267 (MEC). We thank Dr. Robert Meisel for the use of his facilities, technical assistance, and comments on this manuscript. We also thank Paul Regier for his technical assistance.


  • Addiction
  • Cocaine
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Orexin
  • Saccharin preference
  • Selective breeding

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