Orexins (also called hypocretins), which are neuropeptides exclusively expressed by a population of neurons specifically localized in the lateral hypothalamic area, are critically implicated in the regulation of sleep/wake states. Orexin deficiency results in narcoleptic phenotype in rodents, dogs, and humans, suggesting that orexins are important for maintaining consolidated wakefulness states. However, the physiological effect of constitutive increased orexinergic transmission tone, which might be important for understanding the effects of orexin agonists that are promising candidates for therapeutic agents of narcolepsy, has not been fully characterized. We report here the sleep/wakefulness abnormalities in transgenic mice that exhibit widespread overexpression of a rat prepro-orexin transgene driven by a β-actin/ cytomegalovirus hybrid promoter (CAG/orexin transgenic mice). CAG/orexin mice exhibit sleep abnormalities with fragmentation of non-rapid eye movement (REM) sleep episode and a reduction in REM sleep. Non-REM sleep was frequently disturbed by short episodes of wakefulness. EEG/EMG studies also reveal incomplete REM sleep atonia with abnormal myoclonic activity during this sleep stage. These results suggest that endogenous orexinergic activity should be appropriately regulated for normal maintenance of sleep states. Orexinergic transmission should be activated during wakefulness, while it should be inactivated or decreased during sleep state to maintain appropriate vigilance states.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience