Sleep-wake regulation and hypocretin-melatonin interaction in zebrafish

Lior Appelbaum, Gordon X. Wang, Geraldine S. Maro, Rotem Mori, Adi Tovin, Wilfredo Marin, Tohei Yokogawa, Koichi Kawakami, Stephen J. Smith, Yoav Gothilf, Emmanuel Mignot, Philippe Mourrain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

147 Scopus citations


In mammals, hypocretin/orexin (HCRT) neuropeptides are important sleep-wake regulators and HCRT deficiency causes narcolepsy. In addition to fragmented wakefulness, narcoleptic mammals also display sleep fragmentation, a less understood phenotype recapitulated in the zebrafish HCRT receptor mutant (hcrtr-/-). We therefore used zebrafish to study the potential mediators of HCRT-mediated sleep consolidation. Similar to mammals, zebrafish HCRT neurons express vesicular glutamate transporters indicating conservation of the excitatory phenotype. Visualization of the entire HCRT circuit in zebrafish stably expressing hcrt:EGFP revealed parallels with established mammalian HCRT neuroanatomy, including projections to the pineal gland, where hcrtr mRNA is expressed. As pineal-produced melatonin is a major sleep-inducing hormone in zebrafish, we further studied how the HCRT and melatonin systems interact functionally. mRNA level of arylalkylamine-N-acetyltransferase (AANAT2), a key enzyme of melatonin synthesis, is reduced in hcrtr-/- pineal gland during the night. Moreover, HCRT perfusion of cultured zebrafish pineal glands induces melatonin release. Together these data indicate that HCRT can modulate melatonin production at night. Furthermore, hcrtr-/-fish are hypersensitive to melatonin, but not other hypnotic compounds. Subthreshold doses of melatonin increased the amount of sleep and consolidated sleep in hcrtr-/-fish, but not in the wild-type siblings. These results demonstrate the existence of a functional HCRT neurons-pineal gland circuit able to modulate melatonin production and sleep consolidation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21942-21947
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number51
StatePublished - 22 Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Pineal gland
  • Sleep consolidation


Dive into the research topics of 'Sleep-wake regulation and hypocretin-melatonin interaction in zebrafish'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this