The hypocretins (hcrts), also known as orexins, are two recently identified excitatory neuropeptides that in rat are produced by approximately 1200 neurons whose cell bodies are located in the lateral hypothalamus. The hypocretins/orexins have been implicated in the regulation of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and the pathophysiology of narcolepsy. In the present study, we investigated whether the locus coeruleus (LC), a structure receiving dense hcrtergic innervation, which is quiescent during REM sleep, might be a target for hcrt to regulate REM sleep. Local administration of hcrt1 but not hcrt2 in the LC suppressed REM sleep in a dose-dependent manner and increased wakefulness at the expense of deep, slow-wave sleep. These effects were blocked with an antibody that neutralizes hcrt binding to hcrt receptor 1. In situ hybridization and immunocytochemistry showed the presence of hcrt receptor 1 but not the presence of hcrt receptor 2 in the LC. Iontophoretic application of hcrt1 enhanced the firing rate of LC neurons in vivo, and local injection of hcrt1 into the LC induced the expression of c-fos in the LC area. We propose that hcrt receptor 1 in the LC is a key target for REM sleep regulation and might be involved in the pathophysiological mechanisms of narcolepsy.