Study objectives: To determine whether sublaterodorsal tegmental nucleus (SLD) neurons triggering paradoxical (REM) sleep (PS) are glutamatergic.
Design: Three groups of rats were used: controls, rats deprived of PS for 72 h, and rats allowed to recover for 3 h after deprivation. Brain sections were processed for double labeling combining Fos immunohistochemistry and vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (vGLUT2) in situ hybridization.
Measurements and results: The number of single Fos+ and Fos/vGLUT2+ double-labeled neurons was counted for each experimental condition. A very large number of Fos+ neurons expressing vGLUT2 mRNA specifically after PS hypersomnia was counted in the SLD. These double-labeled cells accounted for 84% of the total number of Fos+ cells.
Conclusions: This finding adds further evidence to the concept that PS-on neurons of the SLD generating PS are of small size and glutamatergic in nature. By means of their descending projections to medullary and/or spinal glycinergic/GABAergic premotoneurons, they may be especially important for the induction of muscle atonia during PS, a disturbed phenomenon in narcolepsy and REM sleep behavior disorder.
Keywords: Parkinson; REM sleep behavior disorder; brainstem reticular formation; cataplexy; hypocretin.