Deficiency of orexin signaling during sleep is involved in abnormal REM sleep architecture in narcolepsy


Ito, Hiroto, Noriaki Fukatsu, Sheikh Mizanur Rahaman, Yasutaka Mukai, Shuntaro Izawa, Daisuke Ono, Thomas S. Kilduff, and Akihiro Yamanaka. “Deficiency of orexin signaling during sleep is involved in abnormal REM sleep architecture in narcolepsy.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 120, no. 41 (2023): e2301951120.


Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder caused by deficiency of orexin signaling. However, the neural mechanisms by which deficient orexin signaling causes the abnormal rapid eye movement (REM) sleep characteristics of narcolepsy, such as cataplexy and frequent transitions to REM states, are not fully understood. Here, we determined the activity dynamics of orexin neurons during sleep that suppress the abnormal REM sleep architecture of narcolepsy. Orexin neurons were highly active during wakefulness, showed intermittent synchronous activity during non-REM (NREM) sleep, were quiescent prior to the transition from NREM to REM sleep, and a small subpopulation of these cells was active during REM sleep. Orexin neurons that lacked orexin peptides were less active during REM sleep and were mostly silent during cataplexy. Optogenetic inhibition of orexin neurons established that the activity dynamics of these cells during NREM sleep regulate NREM–REM sleep transitions. Inhibition of orexin neurons during REM sleep increased subsequent REM sleep in “orexin intact” mice and subsequent cataplexy in mice lacking orexin peptides, indicating that the activity of a subpopulation of orexin neurons during the preceding REM sleep suppresses subsequent REM sleep and cataplexy. Thus, these results identify how deficient orexin signaling during sleep results in the abnormal REM sleep architecture characteristic of narcolepsy.

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