Sleep-waking discharge profiles of dorsal raphe nucleus neurons in mice

Neuroscience. 2011 Dec 1;197:200-24. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.09.024. Epub 2011 Sep 17.


We have recorded, for the first time, in non-anesthetized, head-restrained mice, a total of 407 single units throughout the dorsal raphe nucleus (DR), which contains serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) neurons, during the complete wake-sleep cycle. The mouse DR was found to contain a large proportion (52.0%) of waking (W)-active neurons, together with many sleep-active (24.8%) and W/paradoxical sleep (PS)-active (18.4%) neurons and a few state-unrelated neurons (4.7%). The W-active, W/PS-active, and sleep-active neurons displayed a biphasic narrow or triphasic broad action potential. Of the 212 W-active neurons, 194 were judged serotonergic (5-HT W-active neurons) because of their triphasic long-duration action potential and low rate of spontaneous discharge, while the remaining 18 were judged non-serotonergic (non-5-HT W-active neurons) because of their biphasic narrow action potential and higher rate of spontaneous discharge. The 5-HT W-active neurons were subdivided into four groups, types I, II, III, and IV, on the basis of differences in firing pattern during wake-sleep states, their waking selectivity of discharge being in the order type I>type II>type III>type IV. During the transition from sleep to waking, the vast majority of waking-specific or waking-selective type I and II neurons discharged after onset of waking, as seen with non-5-HT W-specific neurons. Triphasic DR W/PS-active neurons were characterized by a low rate of spontaneous discharge and a similar distribution to that of tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive, dopaminergic neurons. Triphasic DR slow-wave sleep (SWS)-active and SWS/PS neurons were also characterized by slow firing. At the transition from sleep to waking, sleep-selective neurons with no discharge activity during waking ceased firing before onset of waking, while, at the transition from waking to sleep, they fired after onset of sleep. The present study shows a marked heterogeneity and functional topographic organization of both serotonergic and non-serotonergic mouse DR neurons and suggests that they play different roles in behavioral state control and the sleep/waking switch.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electroencephalography
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Raphe Nuclei / cytology
  • Raphe Nuclei / physiology*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Wakefulness / physiology*