Knockdown of orexin type 1 receptor in rat locus coeruleus increases REM sleep during the dark period

Eur J Neurosci. 2010 Nov;32(9):1528-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2010.07401.x.


The locus coeruleus (LC) regulates sleep/wakefulness and is densely innervated by orexinergic neurons in the lateral hypothalamus. Here we used small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) to test the role of LC orexin type 1 receptor (OxR1) in sleep–wake control. In sleep studies, bilateral OxR1 siRNA injections led to an increase of time spent in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which was selective for the dark (active) period, peaked at approximately 30% of control during the second dark period after injection and then disappeared after 4 days. Cataplexy-like episodes were not observed. The percentage time spent in wakefulness and non-REM (NREM) sleep and the power spectral profile of NREM and REM sleep were unaffected. Control animals, injected with scrambled siRNA, had no sleep changes after injection. Quantification of the knockdown revealed that unilateral microinjection of siRNAs targeting OxR1 into the rat LC on two consecutive days induced a 45.5% reduction of OxR1 mRNA in the LC 2 days following the injections when compared with the contralateral side receiving injections of control (scrambled) siRNAs. This reduction disappeared 4 days after injection. Similarly, unilateral injection of OxR1 siRNA into the LC revealed a marked (33.5%) reduction of OxR1 staining 2 days following injections. In contrast, both the mRNA level and immunohistochemical staining for tyrosine hydroxylase were unaffected. The results indicate that a modest knockdown of OxR1 is sufficient to induce observable sleep changes. Moreover, orexin neurons, by acting on OxR1 in the LC, play a role in the diurnal gating of REM sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Darkness*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques*
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Locus Coeruleus / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Microinjections
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Orexin Receptors
  • Orexins
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide / genetics
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide / metabolism*
  • Sleep, REM / physiology*


  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Orexin Receptors
  • Orexins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide