Orexin and Alzheimer's Disease

Claudio Liguori
Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences 2017, 33: 305-322
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most frequent age-related dementia. It prevalently causes cognitive decline, although it is frequently associated with secondary behavioral disturbances. AD neurodegeneration characteristically produces a remarkable destruction of the sleep-wake cycle, with diurnal napping, nighttime arousals, sleep fragmentation, and REM sleep impairment. It was recently hypothesized that the orexinergic system was involved in AD pathology. Accordingly, recent papers showed the association between orexinergic neurotransmission dysfunction, sleep impairment, and cognitive decline in AD. Orexin is a hypothalamic neurotransmitter which physiologically produces wakefulness and reduces REM sleep and may alter the sleep-wake cycle in AD patients. Furthermore, the orexinergic system seems to interact with CSF AD biomarkers, such as beta-amyloid and tau proteins. Beta-amyloid accumulation is the main hallmark of AD pathology, while tau proteins mark brain neuronal injury due to AD pathology. Investigations so far suggest that orexinergic signaling overexpression alters the sleep-wake cycle and secondarily induces beta-amyloid accumulation and tau-mediated neurodegeneration. Therefore, considering that orexinergic system dysregulation impairs sleep-wake rhythms and may influence AD pathology, it is hypothesized that orexin receptor antagonists are likely potential preventive/therapeutic options in AD patients.

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