Orexin neurons, located in the hypothalamus, produce orexin-A and orexin-B neuropeptides and send widespread projections throughout the central nervous system, including many nuclei that are critically involved in sleep-wake, cardiorespiratory, and autonomic regulation. Significant progress has been made to better understand the roles of orexins in the control of breathing and autonomic functions since the discovery of orexins in 1998. Orexin neurons are CO /pH chemosensitive and blockade of orexin receptors with orexin receptor antagonists can significantly attenuate ventilatory response to hypercapnia or CO chemoreflex. Animal models with orexin abnormalities, for example, too little or too much, have all been reported to have significant alterations in breathing, central chemoreception (hypercapnic chemoreflex), blood pressure, thermoregulation, and cardiorespiratory responses to stress. More recent studies further show that abnormalities of the orexin system are linked to many neurological disorders in addition to narcolepsy, for example, sleep disorders, neurodegenerative disorders, neurogenic hypertension, and sudden infant death syndrome. These new findings have significantly advanced the knowledge in understanding the underlying mechanism of orexin-associated health and diseases while providing a new pathway for possible treatments. In this article, we will discuss some of the progresses in basic research and in health and diseases. © 2020 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 10:345-363, 2020.
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