Hypertensive subjects often exhibit exaggerated cardiovascular reactivity. An overactive orexin system underlies the pathophysiology of hypertension. We examined orexin’s roles in eating-associated cardiovascular reactivity in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRs) and Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats. Results showed eating regular chow or palatable food (sucrose agar) was accompanied by elevated arterial pressure and heart rate. In both SHRs and WKY rats, the cardiovascular responses associated with sucrose-agar consumption were greater than that with regular-chow consumption. Additionally, SHRs exhibited greater cardiovascular responses than WKY rats did to regular-chow and palatable food consumption. Central orexin 2 receptor (OX2R) blockade attenuated sucrose-agar consumption-associated cardiovascular response only in SHRs. In both SHRs and WKY rats, OX2R blockade did not affect regular-chow consumption-associated cardiovascular responses. Greater numbers of c-Fos-positive cells in the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM) and of c-Fos-positive orexin neurons in the dorsomedial hypothalamus (DMH) were detected in sucrose agar-treated SHRs, compared to regular chow-treated SHRs and to sucrose agar-treated WKY rats. Central OX2R blockade reduced the number of c-Fos-positive cells in the RVLM only in sucrose agar-treated SHRs. We concluded that in SHRs, orexin neurons in the DMH might be overactive during eating palatable food and may further elicit exaggerated cardiovascular responses via an OX2R-RVLM pathway.
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