Melanin-concentrating hormone neurons contribute to dysregulation of rapid eye movement sleep in narcolepsy.
ABSTRACT: The lateral hypothalamus contains neurons producing orexins that promote wakefulness and suppress REM sleep as well as neurons producing melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) that likely promote REM sleep. Narcolepsy with cataplexy is caused by selective loss of the orexin neurons, and the MCH neurons appear unaffected. As the orexin and MCH systems exert opposing effects on REM sleep, we hypothesized that imbalance in this REM sleep-regulating system due to activity in the MCH neurons may contribute to the striking REM sleep dysfunction characteristic of narcolepsy. To test this hypothesis, we chemogenetically activated the MCH neurons and pharmacologically blocked MCH signaling in a murine model of narcolepsy and studied the effects on sleep-wake behavior and cataplexy. To chemoactivate MCH neurons, we injected an adeno-associated viral vector containing the hM3Dq stimulatory DREADD into the lateral hypothalamus of orexin null mice that also express Cre recombinase in the MCH neurons (MCH-Cre::OX-KO mice) and into control MCH-Cre mice with normal orexin expression. In both lines of mice, activation of MCH neurons by clozapine-N-oxide (CNO) increased rapid eye movement (REM) sleep without altering other states. In mice lacking orexins, activation of the MCH neurons also increased abnormal intrusions of REM sleep manifest as cataplexy and short latency transitions into REM sleep (SLREM). Conversely, a MCH receptor 1 antagonist, SNAP 94847, almost completely eliminated SLREM and cataplexy in OX-KO mice. These findings affirm that MCH neurons promote REM sleep under normal circumstances, and their activity in mice lacking orexins likely triggers abnormal intrusions of REM sleep into non-REM sleep and wake, resulting in the SLREM and cataplexy characteristic of narcolepsy.
Project description:Hypothalamic orexin (hypocretin, HCRT) deficiency causes sleep disorder narcolepsy with cataplexy in humans and murine. As another integral group of sleep/wake-regulating neurons in the same brain area, the melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) neurons' involvement in cataplexy remains ambiguous. Here we used the live animal deep-brain calcium (Ca2+) imaging tool to record MCH neuron dynamics during cataplexy by expressing calcium sensor GCaMP6s into genetically defined MCH neurons in orexin knock-out mice, which are a model of human narcolepsy. Similar to wild-type mice, MCH neurons of the narcoleptic mice displayed significantly higher Ca2+ transient fluorescent intensity during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and active waking (AW) episodes compared with non-REM (NREM) sleep. Moreover, MCH neurons displayed significantly lower Ca2+ signals during cataplexy. Importantly, a pre-cataplexy elevation of Ca2+ signals from MCH neurons was not a prerequisite for cataplexy initiation. Our results demonstrated the inactivation status of MCH neurons during cataplexy and suggested that MCH neurons are not involved in the initiation and maintenance of cataplexy in orexin knock-out mice.
Project description:Orexin/hypocretin-producing and melanin-concentrating hormone-producing (MCH) neurons are co-extensive in the hypothalamus and project throughout the brain to regulate sleep/wakefulness. Ablation of orexin neurons decreases wakefulness and results in a narcolepsy-like phenotype, whereas ablation of MCH neurons increases wakefulness. Since it is unclear how orexin and MCH neurons interact to regulate sleep/wakefulness, we generated transgenic mice in which both orexin and MCH neurons could be ablated. Double-ablated mice exhibited increased wakefulness and decreased both rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM (NREM) sleep. Double-ablated mice showed severe cataplexy compared with orexin neuron-ablated mice, suggesting that MCH neurons normally suppress cataplexy. Double-ablated mice also showed frequent sleep attacks with elevated spectral power in the delta and theta range, a unique state that we call 'delta-theta sleep'. Together, these results indicate a functional interaction between orexin and MCH neurons in vivo that suggests the synergistic involvement of these neuronal populations in the sleep/wakefulness cycle.
Project description:Narcolepsy-cataplexy is a neurological disorder associated with the inability to maintain wakefulness and abnormal intrusions of rapid eye movement sleep-related phenomena into wakefulness such as cataplexy. The vast majority of narcoleptic-cataplectic individuals have low or undetectable levels of orexin (hypocretin) neuropeptides in the cerebrospinal fluid, likely due to specific loss of the hypothalamic orexin-producing neurons. Currently available treatments for narcolepsy are only palliative, symptom-oriented pharmacotherapies. Here, we demonstrate rescue of the narcolepsy-cataplexy phenotype of orexin neuron-ablated mice by genetic and pharmacological means. Ectopic expression of a prepro-orexin transgene in the brain completely prevented cataplectic arrests and other abnormalities of rapid eye movement sleep in the absence of endogenous orexin neurons. Central administration of orexin-A acutely suppressed cataplectic behavioral arrests and increased wakefulness for 3 h. These results indicate that orexin neuron-ablated mice retain the ability to respond to orexin neuropeptides and that a temporally regulated and spatially targeted secretion of orexins is not necessary to prevent narcoleptic symptoms. Orexin receptor agonists would be of potential value for treating human narcolepsy.
Project description:Narcolepsy-cataplexy is a chronic neurological disorder caused by loss of orexin (hypocretin)-producing neurons, associated with excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep attacks, cataplexy, sleep paralysis, hypnagogic hallucinations, and fragmentation of nighttime sleep. Currently, human narcolepsy is treated by providing symptomatic therapies, which can be associated with an array of side effects. Although peripherally administered orexin does not efficiently penetrate the blood-brain barrier, centrally delivered orexin can effectively alleviate narcoleptic symptoms in animal models. Chronic intrathecal drug infusion through an implantable pump is a clinically available strategy to treat a number of neurological diseases. Here we demonstrate that the narcoleptic symptoms of orexin knockout mice can be reversed by lumbar-level intrathecal orexin delivery. Orexin was delivered via a chronically implanted intrathecal catheter at the upper lumbar level. The computed tomographic scan confirmed that intrathecally administered contrast agent rapidly moved from the spinal cord to the brain. Intrathecally delivered orexin was detected in the brain by radioimmunoassay at levels comparable to endogenous orexin levels. Cataplexy and sleep-onset REM sleep were significantly decreased in orexin knockout mice during and long after slow infusion of orexin (1 nmol/1 µL/h). Sleep/wake states remained unchanged both quantitatively as well as qualitatively. Intrathecal orexin failed to induce any changes in double orexin receptor-1 and -2 knockout mice. This study supports the concept of intrathecal orexin delivery as a potential therapy for narcolepsy-cataplexy to improve the well-being of patients.
Project description:Narcolepsy is caused by a loss of orexin/hypocretin signaling, resulting in chronic sleepiness, fragmented non-rapid eye movement sleep, and cataplexy. To identify the neuronal circuits underlying narcolepsy, we produced a mouse model in which a loxP-flanked gene cassette disrupts production of the orexin receptor type 2 (OX2R; also known as HCRTR2), but normal OX2R expression can be restored by Cre recombinase. Mice lacking OX2R signaling had poor maintenance of wakefulness indicative of sleepiness and fragmented sleep and lacked any electrophysiological response to orexin-A in the wake-promoting neurons of the tuberomammillary nucleus. These defects were completely recovered by crossing them with mice that express Cre in the female germline, thus globally deleting the transcription-disrupter cassette. Then, by using an adeno-associated viral vector coding for Cre recombinase, we found that focal restoration of OX2R in neurons of the tuberomammillary nucleus and adjacent parts of the posterior hypothalamus completely rescued the sleepiness of these mice, but their fragmented sleep was unimproved. These observations demonstrate that the tuberomammillary region plays an essential role in the wake-promoting effects of orexins, but orexins must stabilize sleep through other targets.
Project description:The neuropeptides, orexin A and orexin B (also known as hypocretins), are produced in hypothalamic neurons and belong to ligands for orphan G protein-coupled receptors. Generally, the primary role of orexins is to act as excitatory neurotransmitters and regulate the sleep process. Lack of orexins may lead to sleep disorder narcolepsy in mice, dogs, and humans. Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder of alertness characterized by a decrease of ability to manage sleep-wake cycles, excessive daytime sleepiness, and other symptoms, such as cataplexy, vivid hallucinations, and paralysis. Thus, the discovery of orexin receptors, modulators, and their causal implication in narcolepsy is the most important advance in sleep-research. The presented work is focused on the evaluation of compounds L1⁻L11 selected by structure-based virtual screening for their ability to modulate orexin receptor type 2 (OX2R) in comparison with standard agonist orexin-A together with their blood-brain barrier permeability and cytotoxicity. We can conclude that the studied compounds possess an affinity towards the OX2R. However, the compounds do not have intrinsic activity and act as the antagonists of this receptor. It was shown that L4 was the most potent antagonistic ligand to orexin A and displayed an IC50 of 2.2 µM, offering some promise mainly for the treatment of insomnia.
Project description:The loss of orexin neurons in humans is associated with the sleep disorder narcolepsy, which is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy. Mice lacking orexin peptides, orexin neurons, or orexin receptors recapitulate human narcolepsy phenotypes, further highlighting a critical role for orexin signaling in the maintenance of wakefulness. Despite the known role of orexin neurons in narcolepsy, the precise neural mechanisms downstream of these neurons remain unknown. We found that targeted restoration of orexin receptor expression in the dorsal raphe (DR) and in the locus coeruleus (LC) of mice lacking orexin receptors inhibited cataplexy-like episodes and pathological fragmentation of wakefulness (i.e., sleepiness), respectively. The suppression of cataplexy-like episodes correlated with the number of serotonergic neurons restored with orexin receptor expression in the DR, while the consolidation of fragmented wakefulness correlated with the number of noradrenergic neurons restored in the LC. Furthermore, pharmacogenetic activation of these neurons using designer receptor exclusively activated by designer drug (DREADD) technology ameliorated narcolepsy in mice lacking orexin neurons. These results suggest that DR serotonergic and LC noradrenergic neurons play differential roles in orexin neuron-dependent regulation of sleep/wakefulness and highlight a pharmacogenetic approach for the amelioration of narcolepsy.
Project description:Ten years ago the sleep disorder narcolepsy was linked to the neuropeptide hypocretin (HCRT), also known as orexin. This disorder is characterized by excessive day time sleepiness, inappropriate triggering of rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep and cataplexy, which is a sudden loss of muscle tone during waking. It is still not known how HCRT regulates REM sleep or muscle tone since HCRT neurons are localized only in the lateral hypothalamus while REM sleep and muscle atonia are generated from the brainstem. To identify a potential neuronal circuit, the neurotoxin hypocretin-2-saporin (HCRT2-SAP) was used to lesion neurons in the ventral lateral periaquaductal gray (vlPAG). The first experiment utilized hypocretin knock-out (HCRT-ko) mice with the expectation that deletion of both HCRT and its target neurons would exacerbate narcoleptic symptoms. Indeed, HCRT-ko mice (n = 8) given the neurotoxin HCRT2-SAP (16.5 ng/23nl/sec each side) in the vlPAG had levels of REM sleep and sleep fragmentation that were considerably higher compared to HCRT-ko given saline (+39%; n = 7) or wildtype mice (+177%; n = 9). However, cataplexy attacks did not increase, nor were levels of wake or non-REM sleep changed. Experiment 2 determined the effects in mice where HCRT was present but the downstream target neurons in the vlPAG were deleted by the neurotoxin. This experiment utilized an FVB-transgenic strain of mice where eGFP identifies GABA neurons. We verified this and also determined that eGFP neurons were immunopositive for the HCRT-2 receptor. vlPAG lesions in these mice increased REM sleep (+79% versus saline controls) and it was significantly correlated (r = 0.89) with loss of eGFP neurons. These results identify the vlPAG as one site that loses its inhibitory control over REM sleep, but does not cause cataplexy, as a result of hypocretin deficiency.
Project description:Hypocretin/orexin (HCRT) and melanin concentrating hormone (MCH) neuropeptides are exclusively produced by the lateral hypothalamus and play important roles in sleep, metabolism, reward, and motivation. Loss of HCRT (ligands or receptors) causes the sleep disorder narcolepsy with cataplexy in humans and in animal models. How these neuropeptides are produced and involved in diverse functions remain unknown. Here, we developed methods to sort and purify HCRT and MCH neurons from the mouse late embryonic hypothalamus. RNA sequencing revealed key factors of fate determination for HCRT (Peg3, Ahr1, Six6, Nr2f2, and Prrx1) and MCH (Lmx1, Gbx2, and Peg3) neurons. Loss of Peg3 in mice significantly reduces HCRT and MCH cell numbers, while knock-down of a Peg3 ortholog in zebrafish completely abolishes their expression, resulting in a 2-fold increase in sleep amount. We also found that loss of HCRT neurons in Hcrt-ataxin-3 mice results in a specific 50% decrease in another orexigenic neuropeptide, QRFP, that might explain the metabolic syndrome in narcolepsy. The transcriptome results were used to develop protocols for the production of HCRT and MCH neurons from induced pluripotent stem cells and ascorbic acid was found necessary for HCRT and BMP7 for MCH cell differentiation. Our results provide a platform to understand the development and expression of HCRT and MCH and their multiple functions in health and disease.
Project description:Neurons containing melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) are codistributed with neurons containing orexin (Orx or hypocretin) in the lateral hypothalamus, a peptide and region known to be critical for maintaining wakefulness. Evidence from knockout and c-Fos studies suggests, however, that the MCH neurons might play a different role than Orx neurons in regulating activity and sleep-wake states. To examine this possibility, neurons were recorded across natural sleep-wake states in head-fixed rats and labeled by using the juxtacellular technique for subsequent immunohistochemical identification. Neurons identified as MCH+ did not fire during wake (W); they fired selectively during sleep, occasionally during slow wave sleep (SWS) and maximally during paradoxical sleep (PS). As W-Off/Sleep-On, the MCH neurons discharged in a reciprocal manner to the W-On/Sleep-Off Orx neurons and could accordingly play a complementary role to Orx neurons in sleep-wake state regulation and contribute to the pathophysiology of certain sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy with cataplexy.