Sleep/wake fragmentation disrupts metabolism in a mouse model of narcolepsy


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Corresponding author E. Mignot: Center for Narcolepsy, Stanford University, 701B Welch Road, Room 145, Palo Alto CA 94304-5742, USA.  Email:


Recent population studies have identified important interrelationships between sleep duration and body weight regulation. The hypothalamic hypocretin/orexin neuropeptide system is able to influence each of these. Disruption of the hypocretin system, such as occurs in narcolepsy, leads to a disruption of sleep and is often associated with increased body mass index. We examined the potential interrelationship between the hypocretin system, metabolism and sleep by measuring locomotion, feeding, drinking, body temperature, sleep/wake and energy metabolism in a mouse model of narcolepsy (ataxin-ablation of hypocretin-expressing neurons). We found that locomotion, feeding, drinking and energy expenditure were significantly reduced in the narcoleptic mice. These mice also exhibited severe sleep/wake fragmentation. Upon awakening, transgenic and control mice displayed a similar rate of increase in locomotion and food/water intake with time. A lack of long wake episodes partially or entirely explains observed differences in overall locomotion, feeding and drinking in these transgenic mice. Like other parameters, energy expenditure also rose and fell depending on the sleep/wake status. Unlike other parameters, however, energy expenditure in control mice increased upon awakening at a greater rate than in the narcoleptic mice. We conclude that the profound sleep/wake fragmentation is a leading cause of the reduced locomotion, feeding, drinking and energy expenditure in the narcoleptic mice under unperturbed conditions. We also identify an intrinsic role of the hypocretin system in energy expenditure that may not be dependent on sleep/wake regulation, locomotion, or food intake. This investigation illustrates the need for coordinated study of multiple phenotypes in mouse models with altered sleep/wake patterns.