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Keywords:

  • hypocretin neurons;
  • orexin;
  • posterior lateral hypothalamic area;
  • sleep–wakefulness

Abstract

The perifornical (PeF) area in the posterior lateral hypothalamus has been implicated in several physiological functions including the regulation of sleep–wakefulness. Some PeF neurons, which contain hypocretin, have been suggested to play an important role in sleep–wake regulation. The aim of the present study was to examine the effect of the PeF area and hypocretin on the electrophysiological activity of neurons of the oral pontine reticular nucleus (PnO), which is an important structure in the generation and maintenance of rapid eye movement sleep. PnO neurons were recorded in urethane-anesthetized rats. Extracellular recordings were performed by means of tungsten microelectrodes or barrel micropipettes. Electrical stimulation of the ipsilateral PeF area elicited orthodromic responses in both type I (49%) and type II (58%) electrophysiologically characterized PnO neurons, with a mean latency of 13.0 ± 2 and 8.3 ± 5 ms, respectively. In six cases, antidromic spikes were evoked in type I PnO neurons with a mean latency of 3.2 ± 0.4 ms, indicating the existence of PnO neurons that projected to the PeF area. Anatomical studies showed retrogradely labeled neurons in the PeF area from the PnO. Some of these neurons projecting to the PnO contained hypocretin (17.8%). Iontophoretic application of hypocretin-1 through a barrel micropipette in the PnO induced an inhibition, which was blocked by a previous iontophoretic application of bicuculline, indicating that the inhibitory action of hypocretin-1 may be due to activation of GABAA receptors. These data suggest that the PeF area may control the generation of rapid eye movement sleep through a hypocretinergic projection by inhibiting the activity of PnO neurons.