Narcolepsy-cataplexy, a neurological disorder associated with the absence of hypothalamic orexin (hypocretin) neuropeptides, consists of two underlying problems: inability to maintain wakefulness and intrusion of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep into wakefulness. Here we document, using behavioral, electrophysiological, and pharmacological criteria, two distinct classes of behavioral arrests exhibited by mice deficient in orexin-mediated signaling. Both OX2R-/- and orexin-/- mice are similarly affected with behaviorally abnormal attacks of non-REM sleep ("sleep attacks") and show similar degrees of disrupted wakefulness. In contrast, OX2R-/- mice are only mildly affected with cataplexy-like attacks of REM sleep, whereas orexin-/- mice are severely affected. Absence of OX2Rs eliminates orexin-evoked excitation of histaminergic neurons in the hypothalamus, which gate non-REM sleep onset. While normal regulation of wake/non-REM sleep transitions depends critically upon OX2R activation, the profound dysregulation of REM sleep control unique to the narcolepsy-cataplexy syndrome emerges from loss of signaling through both OX2R-dependent and OX2R-independent pathways.
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